White House accuses Speaker Boehner of flip-flopping on Senate tax bill

The White House on Monday accused House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) of flip-flopping on the Senate’s two-month payroll-tax-cut package.

Boehner on Monday predicted that the Senate bill would fail in the House and called for negotiations between the chambers on legislation that would extend the payroll-tax cut for a year. He said the Senate bill would only create uncertainty for businesses while delaying tough decisions.

But White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Speaker wasn’t always opposed to the Senate bill, which leaders in the upper chamber crafted to buy time for more negotiations. 

He was for it before he was against it, Carney said.

Boehner reportedly tried to sell the two-month package during a call with the Republican conference on Saturday, but was met with stiff resistance.

Calling the opposition from House Republicans “Kabuki Theater,” Carney said it’s hard to understand how a bill that won overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate could fail in the House.

“We remain hopeful that the House will act and that House Republicans will do the right thing,” Carney said during a briefing at the White House. “Everyone says now that they’re for it.”

He said a “sub-faction” of the GOP is standing in the way of the tax-cut extension, and predicted the legislation might have a chance to pass the House if enough Republicans defect. 

“All it would take would be for 25 or 30 [Republicans] to do what their constituents want them to do,” Carney said. “I don’t think it’s an impossibility that it might happen.”

President Obama continues to support a year-long extension, Carney said, “but Congress needs to act” on the two-month extension. “We are urging the House to follow the Senate's lead,” he said. 

Carney said Obama worked closely with Senate Democratic leaders on the bill, who in turn negotiated with Senate Republicans. He said it’s not Obama’s role to be an “intermediary” between the two chambers.

Obama’s Christmas vacation to Hawaii will be on hold until a tax package clears both chambers, Carney said. 

“He’s here now and will be here.”

— Updated at 4 p.m.