By Russell Berman - 12/20/11 08:01 PM EST
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) implored President Obama to bring Senate Democrats back to the table after the House rejected a Senate-passed two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.
Boehner named Republican negotiators to the conference committee the House approved Tuesday, and he urged Democratic leaders to do the same in the hopes of renegotiating a compromise 11 days before a tax increase is set to hit 160 million Americans.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has rejected the House GOP’s bid to re-open negotiations, and he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have indicated they will not appoint conferees to the House-Senate committee.
Boehner was surrounded by dozens of House Republicans in a show of conference unity. All but seven of them had voted to reject a measure that an overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans had endorsed.
When Boehner was told that, just minutes earlier, Obama had called for his help to pass the Senate bill through the House, the Speaker exclaimed: “I need the president to help out!” The Republicans behind him erupted in applause.
The Speaker defended the House’s decision to force a conference committee instead of simply accepting the Senate compromise.
“This is the system that the Founders gave us. It is as old as our nation and as clear as the Constitution,” he said.
Boehner announced that Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), two veterans of the failed deficit supercommittee, will serve on the conference committee.
Also on board is Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee; Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Trade; and Boehner loyalist Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who was chairman of the GOP transition team following the 2010 election.
The freshman class is to be represented by Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.).
Camp, following a Tuesday meeting of the conferees, echoed Boehner’s message, calling on Obama to press Reid on the matter.
The Michigan Republican, flanked by several of his fellow conferees, also noted that the House and the Senate had recently completed a conference on the defense authorization bill in roughly a week.
“There’s no reason why we can’t resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions before the end of the year,” Camp told reporters. “We have a bill on the table, the Senate has a bill on the table. We need to go through a process of having a conference and resolving those differences.”
But with the White House and congressional Democrats yet to show any inclination that they will yield, Camp also sidestepped a question on whether the GOP would continue to try and put public pressure on Democrats to appoint conferees in the days to come.
“We’ll see,” Camp said. “We’re here. We’re ready to work. And we’d very much appreciate our Senate counterparts coming to the table.”
— Erik Wasson and Bernie Becker contributed.