The head of Democrats’ election efforts in the House put Republicans on notice that they alone will be blamed by voters if they fail to approve a Senate-passed compromise to extend the payroll tax holiday.

Calling it a “defining issue” for the 2012 elections, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said it left no doubt that Republicans were standing up for intransigence and extremism.

“In January, if taxes go up, it will only be because of the House Republicans who rejected compromise after compromise,” Israel said Tuesday on MSNBC.

Israel’s comments came just as the House prepared for a midday vote on a Senate deal to extend the tax cut for two months, instead of the full-year extension both parties initially sought.

Republican leaders in the House want a one-year extension paid for by measures that displease Democrats, but the Senate has already left Washington and wants its two-month deal to stand.

“When a hostage is held hostage by a hostage-taker, nobody says they're both at fault. No, it’s the hostage-taker who is at fault,” Israel said, rejecting the notion that Democrats would share the blame for refusing to acquiesce to the House GOP’s approach.

Israel said the price of the ransom would be $1,000, the amount the White House says the average middle-class family would see its taxes increase if the extension is not passed by the end of the year.

Democrats in the House and Senate are both perplexed and tickled by the fact that Republicans, who have been unrelenting in their demands for lower taxes, are poised to take a position that Democrats can easily use to argue that Republicans stymied a tax cut for the middle class after rigidly defending lower tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. That could help Democrats fight back against Republican claims that President Obama and Democrats are at fault for ongoing economic problems, and help Democrats hold on to the Senate and flip the 25 House seats they need to retake the majority in the lower chamber.

Israel dismissed the idea that the House GOP leadership could create any cover for its members, sparing them from voting directly to kill the Senate deal by instead sending the bill to conference with the Senate.

“Do you really believe that in January, when middle-class Americans taken a look at their pay stubs and see they’re now paying $100 or $200 more per month, they’re going to say, ‘If only Democrats had agreed to the conference'?”