“I wouldn’t bet that given the leadership of the Senate,” Coburn said, when asked whether it was the Senate’s turn to lead the charge.
Pressed on whether he meant just the Democrats or also his own leadership, he said, “I’ll leave it where I said it.”
After the House failed to pass a Wall Street bailout in 2008, Reid and McConnell saved the effort by having the Senate move first on a deal that was passed overwhelmingly. But the politics of such actions have become perilous for Republicans.
McConnell and other GOP senators encountered vocal criticism for that 2008 effort. McConnell, who faces re-election in two years, faced even more conservative anger over his efforts to broker a compromise to the debt limit deal in 2011.
On Friday, McConnell tried one last time to defend the House Republican position to avert the cliff, urging Reid to take up legislation that would extend the current tax rates for a year and then instruct committees to work on a comprehensive tax overhaul in 2013.
“We can bring this House-passed bill up,” McConnell said. “If Sen. Reid has a plan that can get 60 votes in the Senate, break through the disarray in his own caucus and build bipartisan support, offer that as an amendment and then let’s vote. Let’s vote on amendments from all sides.”
“And then let’s go to conference with the House of Representatives,” McConnell continued. “They’ve already passed a bill, one that I support, to prevent a tax hike on all Americans and reform the tax code. Let’s take it up here and get this done.”
Reid, however, was having none of it, and said it was on Boehner to bring up the Senate-approved bill. Senate Democratic aides said there is no contingency plan other than to extend taxes for middle-class Americans before the Jan. 1 deadline. Reid also said it was time for Boehner to get back to the table with Obama.
Senate Republican aides, seeing no other options from Reid, were very much resigned Friday to going over the cliff. The Senate is scheduled to return to work Dec. 27, but the business on the floor is likely to be a reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
“It’s impossible for us to know, short of Reid doing something,” one GOP aide said regarding what might happen in the holiday-turned-workweek between Christmas and New Year’s. “We don’t really have the time ... and if we’re coming back next week, it would be good for us to have something to do” regarding the cliff.
Several key members, including Reid, are scheduled to leave Washington on a government plane Saturday to attend the funeral in Honolulu for the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. According to sources, the return plane is not scheduled to arrive back in Washington until early on Christmas Eve.