For all the focus on what a victory the tax-cut bill represents for President Obama and what a defeat it represents for liberal Democrats, little notice was paid to the fact that the House GOP has passed its first critical test of governing since winning back control of the House last month.
Despite earning the support of genuine conservatives from Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanIf Democrats want to take back the White House start now GOP grapples with how to handle town halls Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Wis.) to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), grandfather of the Tea Party movement, the tax-cut package was also opposed by Sarah Palin, followed quickly by Mitt Romney and groups like the Tea Party Patriots. Critics from the outside, of course, are not tasked with the responsibility of casting a vote that could rock the stock market or cost jobs should taxes rise.

This week, days before the House vote that sealed the tax-cut deal and sent it to the president's desk to be signed into law, incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office put out a statement called "The Tax Agreement Choice," arguing the benefits of the compromise. In it, the leadership case was made for creating investment and averting a deeper recession. The statement also directly addressed the questions raised by outside conservatives about whether to refuse to embrace the compromise and wait until January, when Republicans control the House and could arguably — while letting taxes rise temporarily — win a package more suitable to conservatives.
"First, this is no time to be playing games with our economy," the statement read. "Second, it is unclear what, if anything, Republicans would gain. The president has been adamant that he will not sign an extension of current tax relief without the unemployment provisions or a bill that makes the 2001 and 2003 tax relief permanent. Moreover, to pass anything through the Senate, a number of the ‘traditional’ tax extenders must be included. Dragging this debate into next year would likely result in either: A) a stalemate and a job killing tax increase, or B) families and small businesses forced to pay higher taxes while Congress and the president fight over the details and likely strike the same deal we have today."
Incoming House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse markup of ObamaCare repeal bill up in the air Conservatives to Congress: Get moving Boehner: ObamaCare repeal and replace 'not going to happen' MORE (R-Ohio) refused to use the word compromise on "60 Minutes" last Sunday, instead insisting he would find "common ground." Compromise, to new Tea Party-backed Republican freshmen, is a bad word. Those freshmen, as Dana Milbank points out in The Washington Post, are already attending big-dollar fundraisers to collect the lobbyist money they scorned during their campaigns, and they are hiring lobbyists to run their offices, too. And those new freshman firebrands wanted nothing more than to cast their votes to lower taxes and ride to the rescue of voters who saw their taxes rise Jan. 1 because a Democratic president let them go up.
BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse markup of ObamaCare repeal bill up in the air Conservatives to Congress: Get moving Boehner: ObamaCare repeal and replace 'not going to happen' MORE and Cantor are no doubt facing strong crosscurrents and pressures from within and without to be as pure as possible while still trying to rehabilitate the GOP's reputation left over from the Bush years for incompetence and corruption when Republicans last controlled the Congress. This was clearly a challenging first debate since winning a majority, but Boehner and Cantor and the entire House GOP leadership team should be credited with putting the American people before politics this time.

WILL OBAMA GET START AND ‘DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL’? Ask A.B. returns FOR THE LAST TIME THIS YEAR on Tuesday, Dec. 21, and we are hoping for some GREAT QUESTIONS! Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to Thank you.