“Incumbent presidents have enormous advantages. And I think what Republicans ought to do is what’s right for America. They ought to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily,” Gingrich said.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board captured the frustration among Republicans in the paper’s Wednesday editions, asking whether the GOP’s handling of the tax debate “might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the House GOP must get past the issue.
“Are Republicans getting killed now in public opinion? There’s no question,” he said Wednesday on CNBC. “Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that this is going to happen, and probably the best thing to happen now is just to get it over with.”
In private, the criticism is more stark. Interviews with nearly 10 current and former congressional Republican advisers produced a range of deep criticism.
The most recurring critique was that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) left a Friday meeting with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) expecting enough House support to approve the plan, allowing even some of the staunchest conservatives in the Senate to support the legislation.
“If they insisted on going down this terrible political path, then at a minimum they all needed to stay here then, pounding the drum and demanding the Senate Democrats get back to work. They could at least own the microphones and put Obama in a bad situation with his desire to go to Hawaii,” said a Senate Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely criticize the House speaker.
A former aide to House GOP leaders suggested that, at least while the lawmakers are home, they might hear from real people who are concerned about losing their tax and unemployment benefits.
“Now they have an opportunity to hear from local media and constituents in their districts who are probably hammering them. If they were stuck in Washington, they’d have limited exposure,” he said. He suggested that they “get this issue out of the way before New Year’s, even if they take the political beating for it inside the Beltway.”
The friendly-fire attacks have threatened to undermine House leaders’ position that they did the right thing in rejecting a bipartisan Senate deal to extend the federal payroll tax for two months. The Senate approved the deal on Saturday with an overwhelming 89 votes, including 39 from Republicans. The House rejected it Tuesday, arguing that it was an unacceptable short-term fix and demanding that Senate Democrats reopen negotiation on a full-year extension of the tax cut.