In the House, some rank-and-file House conservatives are deeply disappointed in their own leaders, who in the face of intense political pressure Thursday accepted a two-month deal that House Republicans had almost unanimously rejected just days earlier.
Perhaps no one was more dismayed at the outcome than the nearly 90 freshmen Republicans who came to Washington in January on a tea party wave promising to change the town. Many felt that the year ended with a temporary tax fix that was the epitome of business as usual.
“The House Republicans made a firm, sound point. And when push came to shove, we lost our way,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a freshman. He said Republicans missed the opportunity to use their new House majority this year to force major entitlement changes, overhaul the tax code and shrink government dramatically.
The tax fix, he said, “was bitterly consistent with what happened all year long.”
Though approved on a bipartisan 89 to 10 vote in the Senate, the 60-day tax deal had been crafted behind closed doors largely by two men: Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
It was a fallback solution brokered because Reid and McConnell couldn’t agree on how to pay for extending the tax cut for a full year. Twin deadlines were fast approaching: the expiration of the one-year measure that had cut the payroll-tax rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent and the start of lawmakers’ holiday recess.
The temporary deal extended a tax cut many freshmen believe had been embraced by President Obama and Republican leaders merely because it was popular. Opponents argued that it would not stimulate the economy as Obama had maintained. They also said it could harm Social Security funding over time.
“When you start making decisions based on elections, then you run the risk of having the mess we just did,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.)
Congressional Democrats on Friday reveled in their success in forcing Republicans to yield on tax cuts, one of that party’s signature issues.
“I hope this Congress has had a very good learning experience, especially those who are newer to this body,” Reid said after the Senate voted Friday to approve the deal. “Everything we do around here does not have to wind up in a fight.”
Instead, a number of newer members said Friday the message they had gotten was that they must fight even harder in 2012 — and encourage their leaders to stand beside them.