The House of Representatives is poised to reject a Senate-passed two-month extension of a year-end economic package, preferring instead to hold out for a year-long extension and to challenge Congressional Democrats in yet another political showdown over a popular tax break for the middle class.
Following a closed-door conference meeting with his rank and file membership Monday evening, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that the GOP wants to "solve this problem now" because "it's time to just do the right thing for the American people."
"Our members believe that we passed a reasonable, responsible bill that would extend the payroll tax credit for a year," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "Our members do not want to just punt and do a two-month short-term fix where we have to come back and do this again. We're here, we're willing to work, we will appoint conferees and we hope the Senate will appoint conferees because we're willing to get the work done now and do it the right way."
The GOP meeting lasted more than two hours as the rank and file told leadership that they could not support the short-term deal.
"We disagree with what the Senate produced, and as a result we're asking to go to conference with the Senate so we can resolve the differences between the two Houses," Boehner said. "We're willing to stay here, to get the job done, to make sure the payroll tax credit is done for the entire year so that the American people and small businesses have some certainty about what the tax code's going to look like for all of next year."
A short time later, however, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that if the House passes a motion to go to conference on the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, she will not appoint any House Democrats to participate in the negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has also indicated he will not appoint conferees to the conference negotiations.
"I don't think we should go to conference," Pelosi, D-Calif., said. "Right now we don't even have an opportunity to vote on the bill. The American people asked for three things: jobs, this middle income tax cut, and for us to work together. This proposal that the Senate did meets those standards."
Pelosi told reporters she was disappointed to learn that the House would not hold a clean vote on the Senate measure, but instead vote on a motion of disapproval, which Republicans will vote to pass.
"I saw the Republican Leader say that tomorrow we would have the opportunity to vote on the Senate bill," Pelosi said. "My guess, is that they're afraid that their Members are not going to stick with them on voting against the tax cut because I do not believe that all of the Republicans in that Caucus are against a payroll tax cut."
A senior GOP leadership aide told ABC News that Democrats were "grasping at straws" by highlighting the procedural distinction.
Members will then vote to pass a motion for the House to go to conference on the bill and negotiate final legislation with the Senate. Finally, the House will vote on a resolution to express the sense of the House of Representatives "regarding any final measure to extend the payroll tax holiday, extend federally funded unemployment insurance benefits, or prevent decreases in reimbursement for physicians to provide care to Medicare beneficiaries."
By a bipartisan count of 89-10, the Senate voted Saturday to approve a two-month extension of the package in order to revisit the issue after the holidays. Republicans, on the other hand, voted last Tuesday to approve a year-long extension.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the Senate's short-term fix is an "unworkable solution" which he predicted would hurt small businesses and workers by creating uncertainty in the economy.
"Our members want to make sure that we're here to continue to work until Congress passes a year-long extension of the payroll tax holiday and we outright reject the attempt by the Senate to kick the can down for 60 days," Cantor, R-Va., said.
But the House Democratic leadership took dead aim at Tea Party Republicans for keeping the House from passing the Senate's bipartisan compromise, and asserted that the GOP is afraid of saying yes.
"What we see now is a stalling action on the part of those who were never really for a payroll tax cut in the first place," Pelosi said. "It's just the radical tea party Republicans who are holding up this tax cut for the American people and jeopardizing our economic growth."
The House meets Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. After the House passes the motion to go to conference and the resolution expressing that the sense of the House is to enact a year-long extension, lawmakers could be released Tuesday evening to return to their districts for the holidays.