Speaker John Boehner this morning flatly denied he had ever supported a Senate-passed temporary extension of the payroll tax holiday and vowed that the House will shoot it down today.
The Ohio Republican said the House will kill the Senate-passed bill in a vote this evening. The bill would extend for two months a payroll tax cut and benefits for the long-term jobless and would postpone a scheduled pay cut for doctors who serve Medicare patients.
The House Republican Conference held a rowdy conference call Saturday during which Members said they would not support a two-month extension. Several sources on the call said Boehner indicated that he was inclined to support the bill.
The Speaker today, however, wholly rejected that narrative, saying he had simply expressed that the GOP had scored a victory by forcing the inclusion of language in the bill that would force the president to decide on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days.
“That’s not true. What I was outlining was the fact that having the Keystone pipeline in there was a success. But I raised concerns with the two-month process from the start,” Boehner said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that he had consulted with Boehner before cutting the deal with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
When Boehner was asked today why he didn’t then raise a red flag with his Republican Senate colleagues before the bill passed on an overwhelming 89-10 vote that included members of Senate Republican leadership, Boehner said he had.
“We expressed our reservations about what the Senate was doing,” he said. “But understand, I made perfectly clear to Sen. Reid and Sen. McConnell sometime mid-last week that I would not enter into negotiations with them until the Senate produced a bill.”
Now that it has, Boehner said the two chambers should go into conference and settle their differences, a process he cast as a choice between “whether Congress will stay and do its work or go on vacation,” essentially “punting the problem into next year.”
But while the GOP was trying to shift the fight away from leadership’s handling of the legislation to the length of the extension, Democrats were doing their best to keep attention squarely on Republicans.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) launched an offensive against some 70 Republicans that Democrats view as vulnerable in next year’s election by sending out statements to local media criticizing GOP opposition to the bill and calling on the Members to back the Senate measure.
For instance, in a statement sent to California media, Israel slammed GOP Rep. Jeff Denham: “At a time when hardworking families need every dollar in their pockets, Representative Jeff Denham is part of the partisan problem, risking a $1,000 tax hike on the middle class, rather than stand up to Tea Party extremists.”
The DCCC is also beginning robocalls in 20 districts today on the issue and will launch what one source describes as “a new grass-roots action website calling on targeted House Republicans to stop the tea party from forcing this middle-class tax increase.”