By Amie Parnes - 12/20/11 06:39 PM EST
President Obama urged House Republicans on Tuesday to "put politics aside" and support the two-month payroll tax extension, calling it the only "viable way" to prevent a tax hike.
He called on House Republican leadership to bring up the Senate bill for a vote.
Obama said House Republicans are trying to "wring concessions from Democrats on issues that have nothing to do with a payroll tax cut."
"A one-year agreement is not the issue," he said. "We can and will come to such an agreement."
The president, who had just returned from a ceremony at Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base, where he welcomed home troops from Iraq, urged Republicans to follow the lead of Senate Republicans and Democrats and "put our fights on other issues aside."
"I saw today that one of the House Republicans referred to what they're doing as high-stakes poker," Obama said. "They're right about the stakes. But this is not poker. This is not a game."
"Let's not play brinksmanship," Obama said. "The American people are weary of it. They're tired of it. They expect better."
Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Jay Carney sent out a similar message, urging House Republicans to do the "responsible thing" for the American people and pass the payroll tax holiday.
Less than an hour after the House refused to take up the Senate bill to pass the extension, Carney said "the reason they refused to vote on that bill is because it would have passed."
Carney said the Senate bill "still is available as an option."
"They can take up the bipartisan compromise," Carney said, adding that the deal originally was deemed by the Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), as a "good deal."
"Their willingness to not even hold a vote is a vote to raise taxes," Carney said about House Republicans.
Asked if Obama should negotiate with Boehner, Carney replied: "The issue here isn't negotiating with the Speaker of the House. ... The disagreement here is not between the Speaker and the president."
Carney said it's not the president's responsibility to act as a "marriage counselor" between Republicans in the two chambers.
Asked if the president would still travel to Hawaii if Congress left town, Carney said, "The president is here and is very focused on the need for Congress to take the appropriate action" so that Americans don't see their taxes go up.
"The president intends to stay and work with Congress," Carney said. "But let's be clear on where the power to make that happen resides."
"For people struggling to make ends meet, $1,000 is a big deal," Carney said.
Asked if Obama would be in Washington on Christmas, Carney said, "I'm reluctant to say where he's gonna be on which day ... it's a very fluid situation."
"My crystal ball is very cloudy," he said.
—This post has been updated.