House GOP conferee thinks Reid might be bluffing

A key House GOP negotiator said Tuesday that he intends to spend the holidays in Washington, hammering out an agreement with the Senate to extend unemployment benefits and a payroll-tax cut.

Despite reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) balked at appointing members to a conference committee with the House on the so-called extenders package, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said he believes Democrats might be bluffing.

“I’m going to give them a chance to come to the table, I think they should come to the table, and will come to the table,” the freshly appointed conferee told reporters late Tuesday. “I think they want to be responsible about this — all we’re saying is we want to sit down and work out the differences — that’s what a conference is all about.

“So … let’s have a conference.”

Walden phoned his wife to break the news that he wouldn’t be heading home for the holidays, shortly after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appointed the Oregon lawmaker, as well as seven fellow House GOP colleagues, to represent the majority party of the House on a formal House-Senate conference.

Walden, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said it would be “derelict” if Reid refused to appoint conferees.

Asked if it was possible for members of a conference committee to meet, negotiate and move an agreement before the Dec. 31 deadline, Walden gave an unequivocal “yes.”

“Conferees will be available to do the work, we’ll be here this week — I’ve already told my wife … and that went over real well — and next week, we’ll be here to do whatever needs to be done and in between,” Walden said.

Leadership aides told The Hill that the House GOP conferees were likely to meet Wednesday, but additional details were not available Tuesday afternoon.

“We know what the two bills are, we know the differences, we should be able to work this out and we stand ready to do that,” he added.