When on the campaign trail, most folks running for Congress tout the importance of ignoring partisan politics to do what's best for the nation.
Yet, as the election looms those already serving in the House or Senate are immersed in petty political games aimed at making those in the rival political party look bad in the eyes of voters.
This is, of course, politics as usual. It's been going on for years.
But this election season the Democrats who control the Senate and the Republicans who run the House are putting the already fragile U.S. economy in jeopardy. The political gamesmanship taking place in the Capitol is over renewing the Bush-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year. If the tax cut is allowed to expire it will raise taxes for 114 million middle-class families an average of $1,600 a year.
That kind of financial hit would take a toll on the overall economy, perhaps pushing it back into a recession.
Here is where it stands now. Senators approved the Democratic bill by a near party-line 51-48 vote to extend the tax break to individuals making under $200,000 yearly and couples earning no more than $250,000. Republicans want to keep the tax cut regardless of income, and plan to hold firm when the matter is considered in the House.
It's a game of chicken that likely won't get resolved until around the first of the year. Each side is giving compromise the cold shoulder so the tax cut will serve as a wedge issue aimed at driving the middle class to their side.
It's more likely the uncertainty created is going to make investor jittery and the stock markets gyrate.
Merry Christmas America.
Earlier this month we were optimistic that Republican and Democratic leaders would put politics aside, extend the tax cut for another year, and then let the newly elected members of Congress deal with this critical issue in a more thoughtful manner in 2013.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, simply could not resist keeping this issue burning through the November election.
"With the Senate's vote, the House Republicans are now the only people left in Washington holding hostage the middle-class tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans and nearly every small business owner," President Obama, a Democrat, said in a statement.
"The House will vote next week to stop that tax hike and until the Senate does the same, the threat to our economy remains," Boehner said.
Senators and representatives are set to hit the campaign trail, which means little lawmaking will be going on until at least Thanksgiving. We can only hope all this political game playing on this issue doesn't gut the economy before the election.