When the Senate voted 89-10 on Saturday morning for a plan to extend a payroll tax cut and other items for two months, it seemed like the Congress would end the year by quietly punting those political battles until the end of February 2012.
And then House Republicans rebelled.
The pushback started in a conference call of GOP lawmakers on Saturday evening.
“Lots of frustration,” one Republican told me.
“I don’t think the Senate bill is going to work out,” another House Republican told me on Saturday night.
At the time, it seemed to those on the call that Speaker John Boehner was determined to push ahead with the deal that had been struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.
But on Sunday morning, Boehner threw many in his own party a curveball on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“It’s pretty clear that I and our members oppose the Senate bill,” Boehner said.
“I believe that two months is just kicking the can down the road. And the American people are tired of that,” Boehner added.
That was news to many Republican Senators, who figured that Boehner was on board with the Reid-McConnell two month deal.
“None of our rank and file had any idea that this was not agreed to,” one GOP Senator told me on Sunday, adding that one of his Senate Republican colleagues had just called him on the phone and was also shocked by the turn of events.
“Sounds like there was no coordination,” the Senator told me.
But this same Senator said it was unlikely the Senate would return to work – as Democrats made it clear they will blame House Republicans if the bill doesn’t get through the House in coming days.
“If Speaker Boehner refuses to vote on the bipartisan compromise that passed in the Senate,” Reid said on Twitter, Republicans “will force a tax hike.”
Reid also made clear he would not call Senators back to Washigton, D.C. before the New Year to deal with any changes made by the House.
Members of both parties will meet later today in the House to see what the next move might be.
As of now, the bill is on the schedule for the House, though it’s not clear if action will take place on Monday night or slip into Tuesday.
What will happen?
One Republican told me Sunday night that he thinks Republicans will move to make some changes – no matter what Democrats and the White House are saying.
“I think we amend it and let the games begin,” the lawmaker said.
So much for a calm week before Christmas in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.