A year-end deal to extend a popular tax cut and unemployment benefits collapsed in the span of 48 hours this weekend as the House GOP rejected en masse an agreement that had the blessing of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and most Senate Republicans.
The Kentucky Republican seemed to think that the two-month extension he forged with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that overwhelmingly passed the Senate on Saturday would ultimately pass the House.
But Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had regularly communicated with McConnell as the deal was crafted, ultimately walked away.
After House Members overwhelmingly balked in a rowdy Saturday conference call, even McConnell seemed to back away from the deal he himself had brokered.
“The House and the president both want a full-year extension,” a McConnell spokesman said Sunday. “The best way to resolve the difference between the two-month extension and the full-year bill — and provide certainty for job creators, employees and the long-term unemployed — is through regular order, as the Speaker suggested.”
Some Republicans said Boehner seemed to indicate on the conference call with Members that he could support the deal, a claim his office denied. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) stated that the Conference could do better, according to a Republican on the call.
Whether or not Boehner had indicated support in private, the Speaker on Sunday morning shot down any hope that the plan could pass his chamber.
“I believe that two months is just kicking the can down the road,” the Ohio Republican said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s time to just stop, do our work, resolve our differences and extend this for one year.”
House leadership announced Saturday that the chamber would hold a vote Monday on the compromise, but on Sunday, Senate Democratic aides said they had been informed there would not be a vote on the deal after all.
The only clear thing Sunday afternoon was that nobody knew exactly how the standoff would end. Although the Senate sent a bipartisan message with its 89-10 Saturday vote, GOP aides said the House will send the Senate an amended bill — most likely a yearlong extension of the tax cuts and benefits — or move the bill to conference, where the chambers can resolve their differences. When votes might occur had not been announced as of Sunday afternoon, however.
The disconnect between House and Senate Republican leaders was apparent this weekend, but it was unclear whether McConnell moved on the deal knowing House GOP support was tenuous or whether Boehner overpromised and then had to reverse course after facing an outraged caucus Saturday.