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House GOP Finds Itself Out on a Limb

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

Medved also gave Boehner plenty of space to make his case, which Boehner took full advantage of.

“We are the party of tax cutters, we have been for 30 years and that’s not going to change,” said Boehner, who insisted his entire Conference supports an extension of the payroll tax cut and that the divisions in Washington are relatively minor squabbles over how to pay for it.

Medved also gave Boehner time to shoot down Democratic complaints that he manufactured the crisis as part of a broader political strategy. “No, Michael, no,” the Speaker said with a chuckle.

Boehner also got some much-needed support from Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and an influential conservative on tax issues.

Norquist said in an interview that the politics of the situation could turn around in Republicans’ favor. “I don’t think you can go for a week with the narrative that Republicans are in the way” when they will be saying “until they’re blue in the face” that they support a one-year extension and are willing to go to conference, he added.

But Democrats continued to pressure House Republicans to take up the Senate-approved, two-month compromise. Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) pointed to the concessions his party already made, including language expediting an administration decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

“We even swallowed hard and put this oil pipeline in there,” Schumer said on a press call, adding that Republicans needed to move on the already-passed bill before negotiators can discuss a full-year measure.

“The first thing that they have to do to show their good faith is pass the two-month extension,” he said.

Without a show of good faith, Democrats are reveling in the opportunity to force wedges into the GOP ranks.

Sensing Democrats have Republicans on the ropes, House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said, “It’s not a fight between Republicans and Democrats. ... What you have here is a fight between the Republican right and the Republican far right.”

Similarly, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) dismissed the notion of a conference committee at all, arguing that “the irony is that the Speaker has appointed five [Members] ... all of whom have said at one point or another they oppose” an extension of the payroll tax cut.

Schumer piled on, calling Republicans’ conference committee a “charade” on a phone call with reporters today and said the House should instead hold an up-or-down vote on the Senate-passed bill.

“It’s hard to take that idea seriously when the Speaker’s conferees are all opponents of the payroll tax cut,” he said. “I feel for Speaker Boehner because he didn’t choose this path; the extreme bloc within his caucus did, but they’re far down a dead-end path.”

Meanwhile, in a letter to Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote that Democrats have already compromised by dropping a surtax on millionaires and called once again for the House to vote on the Senate-passed bill.

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