Despite his war-weary Conference’s eagerness to go home, Speaker John Boehner today left open the possibility that Congress will work through next week.
Speaking at a Politico Playbook event, Boehner said he wants to resolve the dispute over appropriations bills and a payroll tax cut extension “as soon as possible.”
“I don’t think anybody knows how this is going to play out over the course of this week, next week,” the Ohio Republican said.
Boehner said the 87 GOP freshmen are becoming restless because more of their priorities have not been enacted.
“Our freshmen over the last couple of weeks have been in this grouchy mood,” he said. “It’s been a long year, Members are tired, they’re looking at Christmas wondering why we’re still here and managing those expectations is important.”
What he tells them: “You can’t force an outcome, especially in this process,” he said.
The House passed legislation Tuesday night that includes a payroll tax cut extension, an extension of unemployment insurance benefits and a fix to Medicare reimbursements for doctors. It also includes provisions to cut funding for health care reform, expedite approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project and reduce the size of the federal workforce.
The Speaker said it is now up to the Senate to act.
“They can take our bill and pass it, they can amend it, they can pass their own bill. But it’s time for the Senate to do their job,” he said.
Off topic, Boehner denied that he participated in a failed coup against then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997, offering new details of his take on an episode that remains disputed.
“There were conversations that I overheard, there were conversations that I was told about,” Boehner said. “I never participated in any attempt to overthrow the Speaker of the House, not once.”
Regardless, Boehner shouldered some of the blame. He lost his position as chairman of the GOP Conference after the 1998 midterm elections.
“I did get blamed,” Boehner said today. “It was a very difficult time.”