By Russell Berman - 12/19/11 09:44 PM EST
The second-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), said the Republican Party is “in disarray” and called the collapse of a payroll tax cut agreement “the concluding convulsion” of the most partisan Congress he has seen in 30 years.
“We are witnessing the concluding convulsion of confrontation and obstruction in the most unproductive, Tea Party-dominated partisan session of the Congress – the most partisan of which I have participated,” Hoyer told reporters at the outset of his weekly Capitol Hill press briefing. He has served in the House since 1981.
“Speaker Boehner knows that we ought to be doing this deal,” Hoyer said.
“His conference wants to have confrontation as opposed to agreement,” he said earlier. “That’s unfortunate for America, and the American people ought to be outraged at that approach.”
Boehner has said he opposes the Senate bill and predicted the House would reject it when it comes for a vote Monday night. The Speaker denied that he initially voiced support for the agreement in a private conference call with House Republicans.
“There is great disunity within their party at this point in time,” Hoyer said. “They’re in disarray to some degree.”
House Democrats are urging their members to support the Senate compromise, even though Hoyer acknowledged that Democrats, like President Obama, want a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits. But he said the two-month extension would give Congress time to work out a deal for the rest of the deal, likening the situation to the stopgap spending bills that have in recent years become a routine, if much criticized way, of operating the government.
“We do this all the time,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer held out hope that enough Republicans would vote yes to pass the Senate bill, but he did not voice confidence that it would happen.
House Republicans want to launch a formal conference committee to reconcile the Senate bill with a House-passed yearlong extension of the payroll tax cut. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he will not reopen negotiations until the House passes the two-month extension. And Hoyer said Reid told him he has “no intention of going to conference” days before Christmas.
“To go to conference, you understand, would take at least three cloture votes [in the Senate]. That’s ... 90 hours of debate. Ho, ho, ho,” Hoyer said.