House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has appointed eight members to serve on a conference committee to further negotiate a payroll-tax cut extension, but Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says there is no chance the Democrats will do the same.
“What [Boehner] does not understand or does not admit is that in the Senate, unfortunately, it takes days for us to set up a conference committee and then meet,” Durbin said Thursday on CNN. “We can’t do this before Jan. 1, even if it was our intention to do it.”
Durbin’s statements represent a significant line in the sand in the payroll-tax standoff.
The GOP has taken a beating in public opinion over the gridlock, and Democrats feel they have the leverage to wait Republicans out.
“The Wall Street Journal editorialized yesterday against John Boehner and the Republican strategy,” Durbin said. “That should have been a wake-up call for those in the caucus that they’re going down a track that even the most conservative publications and leaders in America have rejected.”
In a scathing editorial on Wednesday, the conservative Journal said the House GOP leadership had “thoroughly botched” the payroll tax cut fight, and in doing so put President Obama in a “stronger reelection position” that opens the door to Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate.
Durbin said that the Republicans have a way out — send the bipartisan Senate-passed bill to the House floor for a vote.
He said the reason they haven’t done so is because Boehner has lost control of his caucus to the Tea Party faction.
“All of these conference calls that I’ve been on … there have always been some outliers saying, 'Let’s go fight them to the bitter end,' and then some voice of reason will prevail, a leader will stand up and say, 'Calm down,' " Durbin said.
“I can’t understand why someone has not stood up in the House Republican Congress and said, 'Look at what happened under our watch in this last year. We threatened to shut down the government twice. We threatened to close down the economy over the debt ceiling, and now we are denying to over half of the people living in America a payroll tax cut in the midst of a recession.' There ought to be one voice in that caucus that stands up and says, 'Listen – we owe an obligation to this country that goes beyond this next election.' "