For House GOP, a Holiday Rush

Republicans, hoping to avoid another end-of-the-year crisis, are determined to leave Washington on Friday.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 03: Guests attend the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on the West Front December 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. The second tallest tree ever used at the Capitol, the 88-foot Engelmann spruce is from the Colville National Forest in Washington state. The tree is decorated with approximately 5,000 ornaments, handcrafted by Washingtonians to reflect this year's theme, 'Sharing Washington's Good Nature,' and will be lit from dusk until 11p.m. starting today. 
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Billy House
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Billy House
Dec. 10, 2013, 5:15 p.m.

While scram­bling this week to con­clude a budget deal, House Re­pub­lic­ans are also mov­ing to push farm-bill ne­go­ti­ations in­to next year and plan­ning to leave be­hind a list of oth­er un­fin­ished busi­ness as they ad­journ for the hol­i­days.

Why is Speak­er John Boehner so un­bend­ing in his in­sist­ence that the House must wrap up its busi­ness on Fri­day and re­cess for the year?

“The speak­er simply be­lieves it’s time for us to do our work,” spokes­man Mi­chael Steel said Tues­day.

But isn’t the Sen­ate in ses­sion next week? “Yes, and the Sen­ate wasn’t here last week when we were,” he re­spon­ded.

It’s true that some GOP mem­bers have a trip sched­uled Fri­day af­ter­noon to New York City for the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee’s “2013 Bright Lights and Broad­way” event this week­end. But no one says that’s why House Re­pub­lic­ans can’t work deep­er in­to the month of Decem­ber.

Rather, the ex­plan­a­tion from most Re­pub­lic­ans points to how House mem­bers and staffs have had to deal with ex­ten­ded time away from home — in­clud­ing the pre­vi­ous two hol­i­day sea­sons.

But two House GOP aides sug­ges­ted the real reas­on is a cal­cu­lated move to save House Re­pub­lic­ans from them­selves: “The speak­er simply does not think any­thing good can come about for Re­pub­lic­ans by stay­ing around any longer,” one of the aides said.

In short, Boehner is not in­ter­ested in pla­cing House Re­pub­lic­ans in any oth­er self-im­posed end-of-year dead­lines of any sort, says the aide. The fisc­al-cliff battles late last year and the bit­ter payroll-tax fight at the end of 2011 were two in­stances when Re­pub­lic­ans fell in­to end-of-the-year fights that caused in­tern­al bit­ter­ness and di­vi­sion with­in their own ranks. Some be­lieve the GOP is doomed to lose at Christ­mas­time.

“The speak­er is right: We need to not have a crisis at the end of the year again,” said the aide. “We had enough crises through the year already.”

Any­way, with a new spend­ing plan not really re­quired to be in place un­til Jan. 15 to avoid an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down, this week’s dead­line for a budget deal is widely seen as a soft one. Farm-bill ne­go­ti­at­ors ap­pear to be clos­ing in on a deal — but need a little more time.

And the lit­er­ally dozens of oth­er types of ex­tenders set to ex­pire — in­clud­ing pro­vi­sions re­lated to char­it­able de­duc­tions, en­ergy, com­munity as­sist­ance, and dis­aster re­lief — could be ad­dressed ret­ro­act­ively early next year, al­though do­ing so would lead to un­cer­tainty.

House Demo­crats are try­ing to make an is­sue of Re­pub­lic­ans leav­ing town, em­phas­iz­ing that un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits are ex­pir­ing at the end of Decem­ber un­less Con­gress re­news them. But that charge does not faze Re­pub­lic­ans.

“I don’t know if it’s be­cause of the last two years — that we’ve just been here so late and so many people have lost time with their con­stitu­ents and their fam­il­ies,” said Rep. James Lank­ford, R-Okla., of Boehner’s plans. “But he was here a month ago say­ing the 13th — we’re done. Then he shif­ted it to 11 a.m. on the 13th and we’re done. He’s been dead-on clear on that.”

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