Minutes after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivered a press conference vowing to stand firm on the payroll tax holiday, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) delivered a major blow to Boehner’s position, calling on the lower chamber to pass the Senate’s two-month extension, something which Boehner has refused to do. “The House should pass an extension that locks in the thousands of Keystone XL pipeline jobs, prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions,” McConnell said in a statement.
McConnell’s statement further isolates Boehner, who has found little support from fellow Republicans in his position, and gives President Obama new ammunition with which to attack Boehner in an upcoming speech today.
Boehner initially appeared to support the Senate’s bill, but quickly backtracked in an “apparent breakdown between Boehner and McConnell.” McConnell had remained silent on the payroll tax dispute since the Senate passed its version with overwhelming bipartisan support last week, likely could have avoided delivering a rare intra-party rebuke longer.
But Boehner’s intransigence, which risks raising taxes on 160 million Americans next year, is increasingly hurting the GOP, according to many leaders in the party, and perhaps McConnell felt he had to speak up before more damage was done. As The Hill reports today:
Senate Republicans are worried the standoff over extending the payroll tax holiday could hurt their chances of winning the upper chamber next year.
Senior Republican aides have made clear in private conversations that their bosses are not happy with how House Republicans have handled a bipartisan Senate compromise to extend tax relief for two months.
“It’s not helping,” a veteran Senate Republican strategist said of the House GOP fight against the Senate package. “Senate Republicans are tired of paying the price for the lack of legislative thoughtfulness in the House.”
Indeed, House Republicans have drawn the public ire of Karl Rove, the Wall Street Journal, conservative pundits, and five Senate Republicans, while they’ve found little support among the GOP 2012 presidential candidates. It’s still unclear what the endgame for the payroll tax issue will be, but it’s looking increasingly like it won’t be one in which Boehner comes out winning.
A spokesman for Boehner said McConnell’s statement changes nothing. “The House and Senate have two different bills, but the same goal. That is why we believe, as Senator McConnell suggested, the two chambers should work to reconcile the two bills so that we can provide a full year of payroll tax relief — and do it before year’s end,” he said.