The pressure is mounting on the payroll conference committee to strike a compromise to extend the payroll tax cut for a year before a Feb. 29 deadline.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, today issued a stern warning to members of the committee to move toward a deal or Senate Democrats will move on a bill without them.
"I want to see some action," Reid said at a news conference this afternoon. "I want everyone to be put on notice that we are not going to walk away from this without having some serious votes. If they are unwilling to do something on a bipartisan basis, then we're going to do something to move the bill forward."
The conference committee met this morning for the third time in as many days. Tasked to broker a deal that remained elusive late last year, the hurdles are many and the gulf on how best to pay for the tax cut is still large between the two parties.
Reid said he would remain "patient" but clearly is prepared to offer a backup plan, meaning many long votes in the Senate, if the conference committee fails to strike a deal under deadline.
"In short, hope they get their work done," Reid emphasized, adding that he would be hopeful it would be a bipartisan bill. "If not, we're enacting legislation."
Adding to the chorus pressuring the committee to work harder was Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York.
"What the heck is going on here?" Schumer asked of the perceived slow-moving committee. "They don't seem to be moving quickly at all."
The bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers was chosen by Senate and House leadership after both chamber's failed to pass one bill for a year-long extension of the payroll tax cut, opting to pass the short two-month deal and leave the larger negotiation to the conference committee.