“Speaker Boehner is under enormous pressure. He’s gotten a lot of feedback from many Republicans who say, ‘We just don’t like it.’ As a matter of fact, many Republicans would say, ‘We don’t really want the extension of the unemployment compensation or the rest of it anyway,’” Lugar said. “But I’m hopeful that our majority, Republicans and Democrats today, will proceed because it seems to me this is best for the country as well as for all the individuals who are affected.”
The criticism from the Senate GOP rank and file seemed to indicate frustration from Members who believed or were led to believe — rightly or wrongly — Saturday that they were voting en masse on a bill designed to pass Congress and become law.
Several sources said that in the Senate Republican Conference meeting held Friday night in the Strom Thurmond Room near McConnell’s office suite, the Kentucky Senator had expressed confidence that the two-month plan would pass the House and everyone could go home to enjoy their holidays. There are photos and video footage of McConnell high-fiving Conference Vice Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.).
The question is whether that confidence came from conversations with Boehner or whether McConnell assumed that if the bill cleared with nearly 90 percent of the Senate’s support, it would have an easier route through the House. Sources familiar with the meeting indicated last week that McConnell had conveyed the support of Boehner and the House, though by today, aides were tight-lipped about the specifics of the closed-door meeting.
In a media availability meeting this morning, Boehner denied he ever supported the deal between Reid and McConnell — the result of a negotiating process the Speaker said he kick-started last week by indicating he “would not enter into negotiations with them until the Senate produced a bill,” he said.
McConnell’s office refused to comment on Boehner’s characterization of the talks between the two Republican leaders, saying they do not speak publicly about private meetings involving their boss.
The Republican tumult now has some House Democrats wondering why their colleagues effectively snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and opened themselves up to a new onslaught of attacks.
The McConnell-Reid deal skirted an added tax on millionaires that is repugnant to Republicans and would have forced President Barack Obama to decide on a Keystone XL pipeline project that pits environmentalists against unions — two pillars of the Democratic base.
“They got a lot of what they wanted. Keystone was huge. The president threatened to veto it,” one Democratic staffer said. “Now I think that our party leadership is going to beat the s--- out of them on taxes, on middle-class tax relief.”
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her Caucus was prepared to support the two-month measure even though it was not the deal they would have preferred.
“The Speaker had said very clearly all along that Leader Reid should negotiate with Leader McConnell. This is the compromise,” the California Democrat said before meeting with the Democratic Caucus. “This isn’t the bill we were advocating; we want one year. This is the compromise. This is just moving the goal posts.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.