House Republicans began 2012 by shaking off their defeat in last month’s payroll tax cut standoff, conceding that the timing of their rebellion was less than ideal but insisting they’re united for job creation and against President Obama in the new year.
“We’ve got a lot of disparate voices in our conference. The President wanted the payroll tax cut extended for a year, and so do we. We didn’t think the Senate would leave, but it was pretty clear the Senate wasn’t coming back,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters Wednesday. “We were picking the right fight. But I would argue, we probably picked this at the wrong time.”
“The discussion that we had today, I think, could be characterized as one in which our members are united,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) after a caucus meeting, “around a realization that the policies that have been promoted by this administration have not worked.”
Boehner shrugged off criticisms about his leadership — and about the lack of productivity of the first session of the 112th Congress.
“We’ve passed jobs bill after jobs bill after jobs bill,” he said. “The House has done its job.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was asked to chime in Tuesday on Boehner’s occasional difficulty keeping his members together on critical issues — and whether that might change this year.
“He’s going to have to want to keep them in line,” she told Politico’s Mike Allen, adding that the speaker has “awesome power” if he or she chooses to use it.
At the Wednesday press conference, Boehner, Cantor and other members of the GOP leadership took turns bashing President Obama while promising a laser-like focus on job creation in 2012. They urged Democrats to take up the many jobs-related bills the House has passed and called on the President to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Battles from last month will restart as Congress returns this week. A bipartisan House-Senate conference committee is poised to begin negotiating full-year extensions of the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance, and Medicare “doc fix,” all of which currently expire at the end of February.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.