Dems, White House blame Tea Party, say GOP shifted on tax cut

The White House and Senate Democrats are going into overdrive to blame the possible death of a payroll tax cut on House Republicans and the Tea Party.

The messaging effort comes ahead of a Monday night vote in the House, which is expected to reject a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut that was approved by the Senate on Saturday. 

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In separate appearances on morning talk shows, White House officials and senior Democrats sought to portray Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as beholden to Tea Party Republicans, who were forcing him to back away from the Senate legislation. That bill won 89 votes in the Senate on Saturday. 

"Speaker Boehner's a decent guy ... but he's got a caucus that is sort of out of control," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "He's afraid of the 80 Tea Party, way-out-there people in his caucus. He's letting them run the caucus, run his House."

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer made similar accusations later, on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown."

"You don't get 89 votes for something like this without there being a complete understanding [that] the House Republican leadership was on board," Pfeiffer said on MSNBC. "Speaker Boehner got on the phone with his caucus, tried to sell it, we had a Tea Party revolt." Pfeiffer specifically named two Tea Party favorites, freshman Reps. Allen West (R-Fla.) and Joe Walsh (R-Ill.).

Republicans argue it would be better to extend the tax cut for a full year, something President Obama also supports. They argue the Senate should return to Washington to negotiate a longer deal. 

But the White House and Senate Democrats say the two-month extension was negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to buy time for more talks. They say if the House votes down the deal, it will be to blame for rising taxes in January. 

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, rejected Republicans' ability to act as "the saviors of the one year" extension in another interview on MSNBC's "Jansing and Co." "They have spent the whole year refusing to even support the payroll tax cut extension," she said. 

The Senate is “pretty dysfunctional,” said Wasserman Schultz. “So for legislation to pass 89-10 including Tea Party Republicans, moderate Republicans, Republicans and Democrats to come together and say we need to do this two month extension...for House Republicans to say no: That is extremism at its worst.” 

Wasserman Schultz also joined her Democratic colleagues in lambasting the House Republican leadership as "petrified" of doing anything the Tea Party contingent opposes.

Democrats say McConnell was also acting as a proxy for Boehner in the talks with Reid, something House Republicans say is not true.

Republicans had won language in the tax bill approved by the Senate that would have forced Obama to make a decision on developing the Keystone pipeline within 60 days. This had been seen as a significant victory, as the White House said it would have forced Obama to reject a pipeline the GOP says would create thousands of jobs. 

They won the Keystone language while only agreeing to a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut that many Republicans doubt will help the economy and worry could weaken Social Security. The payroll tax cut comes from funds that would otherwise go to Social Security.

But Democrats were happy to have the tax issue to debate for another two months, and some Republicans were unhappy the Senate had agreed to a play that set up another vote on the tax issue no later than February. Boehner said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that legislating tax policy two months at a time is "kicking the can down the road."

This story was updated at 12:27 p.m.