Republicans turned the screws on their own lawmakers in the House on Tuesday, muscling their version of a payroll tax cut extension bill through the House, sending it on to Democrats in the Senate who immediately declared it Dead on Arrival.
“The bill just passed tonight by the House of Representatives is a pointless, partisan exercise,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“It’s disappointing that the White House is threatening to veto this bill,” said Speaker John Boehner after the vote, who used a news conference to point the finger of blame at Senate Democrats and President Obama.
Speaking at almost the same time as Boehner, Reid labeled the GOP payroll tax bill an “exercise in futility.”
“The President needs to decide whether he wants to govern or whether he wants to campaign,” groused Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), as the verbal grenades flew back and forth through the Capitol Rotunda.
Meanwhile, Democrats and the White House seemed aggravated by how much attention one provision of the GOP bill was getting, that dealing with accelerating the final decision on construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“It is clear that the Republicans, in using the pipeline, are trying to change the subject,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney called the Keystone pipeline a “highly ideological political provision” – but in a written veto threat to the underlying – the pipeline wasn’t mentioned.
Republicans clearly want the Keystone pipeline, making the case that it will mean thousands of new jobs, and in the halls of Congress, it almost seemed like the inclusion of that plan had tilted some of the momentum away from Democrats, who had the GOP on the defensive the last two weeks on the payroll tax cut extension.
So, where are we? Not any closer to a final deal evidently, as Democrats hope to quickly defeat the House bill in the Senate on Wednesday.
Once that happens, then we can finally start the real year-end negotiations.
In other words, we have reached the point where it’s about time for leaders of both parties to figure out how to untie the Congressional Gordian Knot and finish work for the year.
It might not be that easy to do.