GOP Goes To War With Itself Over Payroll Cut

December 19, 2011 12:30 p.m.

A civil war between House Republicans and their Senate counterparts had gone public over the possibility that the GOP will be held to blame if the current payroll tax cut expires on January 1. The Senators feel abandoned after having voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to pass a two month extension of the holiday — only to have conservatives in the House GOP conference reject it publicly, and insult the legislation itself.

GOP Leaders on both sides of the Capitol are trying to contain the fallout, but with vulnerable Senate Republicans exposed, and the payroll tax cut set to lapse in less than two weeks, that’s a tall order.Senate Republicans were led to believe that the legislation they signed on to Saturday would sail through the House and several of them — including Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Dick Lugar (R-IN) — are pressing their House counterparts to drop their objections. In response, nearly a dozen House GOP freshman convened a press conference Monday afternoon to chastise the Senate — including Senate Republicans — for passing a bill they regard as a non-starter.

“I don’t care about political implications,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY). “I’ve said it once on the floor, I’ve said it to the public, I’ll say it again. I don’t care about my re-election effort.”

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) accused Senate Republicans who voted for the compromise legislation of setting aside the national interest out of a personal desire to see their families over the holidays.

“I didn’t see the high-fiving going on, but I did hear the tune “I’ll be home for Christmas” coming out of that mix,” he said. “I personally think that that vote had a lot more to do with getting out of Washington and going back home.”

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner put the public rift in pragmatic terms.

“Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell have a very close working relationship,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that their respective caucuses see every issue the same way.”

One high-profile House conservative, Rep. Allen West (R-FL), called the Senate legislation a cop-out. I asked him if he’d discussed that with his fellow Floridian, and tea party-backed conservative Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“Nah,” said West. “He’s probably off vacationing somewhere.”

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