A House Tea Party leader said Monday that GOP lawmakers might vote down an extension of tax cuts if it's tied to an extension in unemployment aid.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, said Republicans could balk at voting to extend all the tax cuts for two years if it's tied to a long-term extension of jobless benefits.
"I don't know that Republicans would necessarily go along with that vote. That would be a very hard vote to take," Bachmann said on conservative talker Sean Hannity's radio show on Monday.
President Obama is said to be amenable to extending all the tax cuts for two years as a concession to Republicans as long as unemployment benefits and certain tax breaks are extended as well.
Republican lawmakers have consistently opposed further extensions of unemployment benefits because, the GOP complained, spending on those benefits was not offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. Democrats have argued that the spending on jobless benefits is an "emergency," and doesn't need to be paid for under "pay-go" rules.
The latest jobless benefits lapsed at the end of November, and securing a new, lengthier extension is one of the top bargaining chips for the White House, especially as both sides hope to close in on a deal.
But conservatives like Bachmann could scuttle the deal if enough defect from the party over spending concerns.
"I think we're back in a conundrum. I think the compromise would be extending the rates for two years and not permanently, but not tying it to massive spending," she said. "We cannot add on something like a year of unemployment benefits."
The Tea Party leader's words also set up the prospect of a showdown that Republican leaders have sought to avoid. If lawmakers in Bachmann's Tea Party caucus were to vote down an extension of all the tax cuts because unemployment benefits are attached, the GOP would seem divided on tax cuts, just as the party is on the verge of a relative victory in the tax debate.
Bachmann said that leadership hasn't informed members of the contours of any deal, but said that they'd face a difficult time selling members on an extension tied to unemployment.
"Tying it to massive spending is something that would be very difficult for members to swallow," she said.