"Last week, Speaker Boehner sat in a meeting with Leader Reid and Leader McConnell and he gave Leader McConnell his proxy to negotiate a bipartisan compromise," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a Sunday statement. "He made public comments promising to live by whatever agreement the Senate reached. He said, 'If the Senate acts, I’m committed to bringing the House back—we can do it within 24 hours—to deal with whatever the Senate does.' The Senate came to a deal, and now Speaker Boehner must keep his word."
"The Speaker needs to put the Senate's bipartisan compromise on the floor and let House Democrats and the remaining sane members of the House Republican caucus vote for it," Schumer said. "Otherwise, taxes will rise on the middle class, and the House Republicans alone will be to blame. If House Republicans let taxes go up on the middle class on January 1, it could very well cost them the majority in the House next year. And they will deserve it."
House Democrats were also quick to lambaste Boehner for his remarks.
“It is time for Speaker Boehner to demonstrate real leadership and bring [the Senate bill] up for a vote tomorrow,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md, in a statement. “We are witnessing a pattern of Speaker Boehner walking away from bipartisan compromises to kow-tow to his extreme tea party wing of his caucus.”
Going into any negotiations, House Republicans are determined not to forfeit what they see as a huge concession from Senate Democrats: the decision to drop a millionaire surtax as the means of financing the payroll tax cut extension. They don't want to give that up now after having remained unified and winning it, despite intense and at times unnerving political heat.
A senior House GOP aide familiar with the emerging strategy and ever-rising rank-and-file antipathy to the Senate bill summarized the situation:
"We have to get out of the cul-de-sac of the Senate only being able to produce the lowest common denominator and then trying to force a terrible product on the House," the aide said. "Our members are fed up with that and are ready to have a fight if that's what it takes to get a good product."
Boehner on Sunday suggested that compromise shouldn’t be difficult to reach, the record of this Congress notwithstanding.
“I think if you look at the House-passed bill, we did everything the president asked for,” Boehner said. “We paid for this, offset it with reasonable reductions in spending. Ninety percent of those reductions, frankly, the president agrees with.”
Asked if they could reach a compromise on the extension package by Christmas, the Speaker responded, “How about tomorrow?”
Daniel Friedman and Shane Goldmacher contributed.