“We were elected for a reason,” freshman Rep. Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.) said after a Republican huddle in a Capitol basement meeting room Monday night. “That was because the American people were tired of business as usual.”
At the raucous, two-hour closed-door meeting, House Republicans compared themselves to the underdog, principled Scots in the movie “Braveheart” and, over takeout chicken sandwiches, promised to knock down the Senate bill.
Senate Democrats accused House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team of walking away from the deal as a capitulation to tea-party elements and said they had no plans to reopen talks. They said that if the House rejects a deal that was adopted in the Senate on an 89 to 10 vote, it would amount to nixing the tax cut.
“It’s high-stakes poker,” said Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) of the stalemate with the Senate, as he left the Republican meeting.
GOP leaders announced late Monday that they would hold key votes on the Senate package Tuesday instead of late Monday night, as had been planned.
But Boehner predicted the House would reject the Senate bill and seek to open negotiations over how to pay for a $120 billion, full-year extension of the tax cut.
“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,” Boehner said Monday night.
GOP critics of the two-month deal said it would be a half-measure that would not solve the larger problem of stimulating the economy. One House member who had been a businessman argued that “at minimum” it should have been a 90-day extension to match the quarterly schedule on which many corporations pay taxes.
“That’s logic, but again, what I’m learning down here is we don’t use logic,” said freshman Rep. James B. Renacci (R-Ohio).
President Obama has made extending the expiring one-year payroll tax holiday his year-end priority, arguing that letting workers keep and spend more of their paychecks would boost the still-sputtering economy.
If the tax holiday is not extended, payroll taxes will jump from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent in January, costing the average family $1,000 next year. The Senate package also includes provisions that would extend jobless benefits for millions of unemployed Americans and avert a cut in reimbursement rates for doctors who treat Medicare patients.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he had no intention of restarting talks with the House. A two-month deal, he said, would provide time for the parties to work out a deal for the entire year.