House leadership postponed a vote on the Senate-passed payroll tax cut package, opting to take up the bill Tuesday instead.
House Republicans emerged from a two-hour strategy session unclear whether votes would proceed this evening as originally planned or be delayed. But at a news conference following the meeting, leadership said the vote would take place Tuesday.
Following the meeting, Speaker John Boehner said, “Our Members believe we passed a reasonable, responsible bill ... [and] our Members do not just want to punt.
“We’re here, we’re willing to work, we will appoint conferees and we hope the Senate will appoint conferees,” the Ohio Republican added. “We outright reject the attempt by the Senate to kick the can down the road.”
Members were confident that whenever the votes come, they will dispose of the Senate-passed payroll tax bill and attempt to enter into conference with the Senate.
According to Republicans in attendance, their conference meeting today was partially a pep rally and partially a discussion about strategies moving forward.
GOP leaders pushed for their members to continue to stand firm against the Senate, with Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) at one point telling them, “We are at a point where we have to hold and turn the tables on them.”
Numerous rank-and-file Republicans also harshly spoke out against the deal that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cut with Democrats, including Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.), who quipped, “The piece of manure that they sent over here is not worthy of our consideration” to cheers from her colleagues.
Although many members of the Conference were hoping to wrap up work this evening, Republicans said enough lawmakers raised concerns about voting late at night that leaders decided to vote Tuesday during the day.
Additionally, leadership indicated to Members that it would look to provide them with a way to cast a yes vote Tuesday and not force them to vote against the bipartisan deal. Although at press time it was unclear what that meant, leaders were reportedly discussing using an unorthodox procedure in which they forgo the normal vote on a motion to concur with the Senate deal and simply consider a vote to appoint conferees as counting as disapproval, aides said.
Republicans were also expected to vote on a majority resolution that will be offered after the procedural votes are completed.
That resolution, worded in harshly partisan language, is nothing more than a reiteration of the bill the House passed last week that the Senate changed.
Republicans were unified in maintaining they were simply following regular order.
“It’s the way this place works,” Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (Ky.) said. “House passes a bill, Senate passes a bill, go to conference.”
Rep. Jeff Flake said there was some disagreement about whether a vote on the Senate bill is necessary.
“There’s some question about do you have to defeat the Senate bill, can’t you just appoint conferees based on the bill we already passed, so a lot of disagreement about that,” the Arizona Republican said, adding that “you had all kinds” of viewpoints expressed during the lengthy conference meeting.
“We’re going to do the right thing the right way, and we’re going to make it absolutely clear this is a 12-month tax cut for the American people, and that’s it,” freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said following the Conference meeting.
Rep. Jeff Landry agreed, declaring a two-month payroll tax extension “bad policy.”
“Y’all need to call the Senate and ask them why they want to inject that kind of uncertainty into the American family,” the Louisiana Republican said, speaking in favor of the measure that cleared the House last week.
“What we sent was a very responsible bill, and [the Senate] turned around and said no, it’s not good,” Landry said. “The president said he wanted a year, the president said he wanted a year. The House is giving the president what he wants and the Senate doesn’t?”
As the legislation moved into the House Rules Committee, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released a statement calling on Boehner to allow an up-or-down vote on the Senate compromise that he said he has worked for weeks to broker.
“It is time for Speaker Boehner to follow through,” the Nevada Democrat said. “Senator McConnell said that our bill is ‘designed to pass,’ and I was encouraged to see courageous Republicans in both the House and Senate speak out against Speaker Boehner’s decision to put politics ahead of middle-class Americans’ economic security.”
House Democratic leaders also ripped Boehner in a news conference, highlighting the divide between House and Senate Republicans and blasting the GOP for what they charged was intransigence on the issue.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi vowed not to appoint conferees for any conference committee on the legislation and said Republicans were actually working against extending the payroll tax cut.
“It’s like the fiancé, a man courting a woman, and she says to him: ‘Really, I’d love to marry you. I’ll marry you on Feb. 30.’ Well, that day’s never coming,” Pelosi said. “What we see now is stalling action.”
Jessica Brady and Jonathan Strong contributed to this report.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.