House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Congress' expected adjournment before acting on the Bush-era tax cuts the "most irresponsible thing that I have seen since I have been in Washington, D.C.
"And I've been here a while," he added.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday" alongside Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Boehner slammed Democrats for demurring on the tax vote, saying it "sounds like they're just going to punt the ball until a lame-duck session."
"I think she's afraid," McCarthy said of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "She's got 37 Democrats in her own party that say they want to extend all the tax cuts."
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), appearing later on the same program, blamed the Senate while acknowledging "I doubt we will" get to tax cuts before leaving.
"The Senate has refused to move forward on that issue," Hoyer said. "It would be a specious act" for the House to rush to extend the cuts.
Democrats have "absolutely pledged by the end of the year" to counter what he called a "Republican increase in taxes on the middle class" -- as the Bush tax cuts had an expiration built in.
"There will be no increase in middle-income taxes," Hoyer vowed.
On NBC's "Meet the Press,"Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said "the House will vote on the tax cuts before the end of the year" and accused Republicans of holding tax cuts "hostage" to get the upper income brackets included.
When pressed by host David Gregory on whether Democrats would leave for the campaign recess without taking up tax cuts, Van Hollen said, "We are absolutely going to get this done before the end of the year. We may very well take it up before midterms."
The National Republican Campaign Committee later issued a statement firing back at Van Hollen for "doubling down on the exact same failed Obama-Pelosi policies of the last two years."
"By leaving town without an up-or-down vote to stop the Obama tax hike, Democrats are giving middle-class families and small business owners one more reason to replace the arrogance and irresponsibility of this Congress with Republicans who are serious about getting this economy moving again," NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay said.
When pressed by Fox host Chris Wallace on whether he would be able to support just middle-class tax cuts, as the speaker had previously said he would if that was his only option on the table, Boehner firmly said he wanted all of the tax cuts extended.
"I have made it clear I'm for extending all of the current tax rates," Boehner said. "If [Pelosi is] not willing to have a fair and open debate she can't count on our votes."
On CNN's "State of the Union," House Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the sticking point was the $250,000 threshold for tax cuts extension in the Senate.
"You know, what it gets down to is we can count and we know we don't have 60
votes for our tax position," Durbin said. "We want to basically say after the election
when we still face a deadline, by the end of the year we'll take up all of
these tax issues. That to me is the only realistic way to address
Boehner said that the uncertainty over the tax cuts was hurting the economy and having its pull on the unemployment rate.
"The American people are asking where are the jobs," Boehner said. "We don't have jobs because of all the uncertainty coming out of this administration and this Congress."
Van Hollen disputed that the extension of all tax cuts would create jobs, pointing out that the tax cuts had existed for nine years. "I don't see all this job creation as a result of those tax cuts," he said. "This story... is nonsense."
"They've tried to mask this as an issue of small businesses," he added.
House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence on "Meet the Press" accused Democrats of insisting on a tax increase in January. "There should be no high priority for Congress" than to vote on the tax cuts, he said, adding it would be "unconscionable" for Congress to recess without an up-or-down vote.
This story was updated at 12:40 p.m.