House Democratic leaders are calling on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to immediately summon House members back to Washington to address the “fiscal cliff” and other issues in the final days of 2012.
In a statement issued Thursday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said there was ample work remaining to be done by the House in the final days of 2012, and that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) should stop "stonewalling" and call members back.
"The House Republican leadership has run out of excuses and out of time. Their inaction continues to threaten middle class Americans with higher taxes," she said. "With five days left before the fiscal cliff, Speaker Boehner should immediately call the House back into session to allow a vote on the Senate-passed middle-class tax cut bill that the president has said he would sign immediately."
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) urged a return to action before an empty House chamber during a brief pro forma session Thursday.
“We’re not working, we’re not here,” he said. “We ought to be here working, Mr. Speaker, we’re not.”
Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), the retiring lawmaker and longtime Boehner ally presiding over the session, thanked Hoyer for his comments, adding he was “saddened that came in a session without substance.”
Following his remarks, Hoyer said the House should pass a bill already approved by the Senate, which would extend lower tax rates for all income below $250,000 for married couples, and $200,000 for individuals. He said he was confident that despite GOP protests that lower rates should not be allowed to expire for anyone.
“I’m convinced it would pass because this is four days away [from the end of the year] and there’s … almost nobody I’ve talked to that doesn’t want taxes on average working Americans, $250,000 and under, not to go up,” he said. “Almost everybody agrees with that proposition.”
He also said that Democrats were prepared to compromise on a fiscal cliff package, but did not delve into specifics.
“Democrats are ready to work and, yes, ready to compromise,” he said. “We understand that we won’t get it all our way. The legislative process is about compromise.”
Pelosi said in her statement that there are other legislative loose ends that the House could attend to in the year's final days, including reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and passage of a farm bill.
"There are plenty of reasons for this Do-Nothing Congress to get back to work," Pelosi said.
Boehner sent House lawmakers home for the Christmas holiday one week ago, after he failed to garner enough Republican support for his alternative tax proposal on the fiscal cliff. Since then, he has maintained that it now falls to Senate Democrats to craft a compromise package avoiding that combination of automatic spending cuts and expiring tax cuts.
On Wednesday, House Republican leaders issued a joint statement saying they would consider whatever legislation the Senate approves, but that the Senate first must send something over.
"If the Senate will not approve and send [House-passed bills] to the president to be signed into law in their current form, they must be amended and returned to the House. Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended, or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments," the statement read. "The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act."
— This story was updated at 3:10 p.m.