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Cracks Begin to Appear in House GOP Stance as Possible Deal Forms

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

Updated: 4:04 p.m.

House Republicans this afternoon began showing increasing signs that they might consider passing a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday.

According to a GOP source, the House Republicans will put forth a new two-month bill to extend the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits and Medicare "doc fix" that would include a tweak to the original payroll language. The plan then would be for the House to approve the new short-term legislation and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to pass the bill in the Senate by unanimous consent. As part of the deal to approve the two-month stopgap, Reid also would name conferees to formally negotiate the long-term extension in the new year.

If everything goes without a hitch, the president could get the bill Dec. 30, when the Senate will be in a pro forma session.

A Democratic aide explained that the nature of the technical change would be to address the concerns of payroll companies about the logistics of a two-month tax holiday: "Instead of a cap, there will be a tax to claw back any excess 'tax break' collected in the two months."

Cracks started showing in the GOP facade in the wake of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal this morning that the House should pass the two-month extension in exchange for the Senate agreeing to begin negotiating a full-year deal promptly.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, began asking GOP Members today how they’d like to proceed, according to two House Republican sources.

A notice for a conference call with Members said it was to “gain input” from Members on the “ongoing debate.” One GOP aide said Price was “taking the temperature of Members today on taking the two-month deal.”

Price exited a meeting in Speaker John Boehner’s office saying House Republicans were continuing to demand that Senate Democrats appoint conference committee members.

The meeting was called to determine a response to McConnell. But there were other signs that the rank and file was getting restless, particularly after days of withering criticism from outlets as varied as their Senate colleagues to the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, some inside the House GOP Conference clamored to party leadership to quickly find a face-saving exit strategy.

Lisa Wright, a press secretary for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), said in an email to several dozen GOP leadership staffers that Republicans could face severe political repercussions from their stance.

The email cited anecdotal opposition to the GOP’s position from a “77-year-old constituent” who is a veteran and worked on the Armed Services Committee for 27 years.

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