Reid, Senate Dems accuse GOP of seeking to derail economic recovery

Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday accused Republicans of trying to derail the national economic recovery for political purposes after talks to extend the payroll tax holiday hit a wall.

“We’ve had five straight months of the unemployment rate coming down. Let’s make no mistake, there are some Republicans who think that doesn’t really work with their strategy of defeating President Obama. These are some of the same voices who are opposing any bipartisan agreement to extend the payroll tax cut,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTop Senate Dems demand report from Trump on UK nerve agent attack 'Dreamers' fix blocked in Senate GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone MORE (Ill.).

When asked whether he thought Republicans were intentionally attempting to derail the economic recovery to bolster their chances in November, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid tears into Trump, Senate GOP: They’re ‘acolytes for Trump’ GOP pushes to change Senate rules for Trump Trump presses GOP to change Senate rules MORE (D-Nev.) said: “It appears that is true.”

“Based upon the battles, the number of battles they’ve had, especially as we’ve seen with the debates with the Republican candidates — what are they going to talk about if the economy continues to improve?” he said.

In the House, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made a similar argument.

"We're having success — the economy is starting to grow," said Hoyer. "[But] there are some here, frankly, who are just as satisfied to have the economy not grow, not create jobs, not have GDP growth, so it can help their politics."

Republicans met the arguments from Democrats head-on by saying they have always been in favor of extending the tax cut. Republicans in both chambers accused Democrats of making little genuine effort to reach an agreement. They say Democrats are more interested in painting Republicans as obstructionists to suit their own electoral interests than finding common ground.

Democratic and Republican leaders said Senate-House negotiations to extend the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits for a full year have ground to a halt.

“Where are we today, literally days away from the expiration of that agreement? We’re nowhere, we’re back in the world of confrontation,” said Durbin.

Democratic leaders say the Senate and House are poised for another standoff, similar to the one that nearly allowed the payroll tax cut to expire in December.

“The Republican leadership came back after the holidays chastened, saying they wanted this resolved quickly. They said they wouldn’t drag it out because they realized they were hurt politically by the events of December,” said Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFox News host Watters says spending bill was 'huge defeat' for Trump Amtrak to rename Rochester station after Louise Slaughter Conscience protections for health-care providers should be standard MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader.

“Well, I guess they're masochists because they want to go through it again,” he said.

Republican leaders said Democrats are not negotiating in good faith because President Obama wants to run against a do-nothing Congress.

“It seems to me that Democrats in the Senate have sort of decided to link up with the Obama campaign and make sure that on any bipartisan discussions that occur it doesn’t lead to a bipartisan agreement,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellYou just can't keep good health policy down Trump threatens to veto omnibus over lack of wall funding, DACA fix Democrats desperate for a win hail spending bill MORE (Ky.). “I think the reason for that becomes increasingly obvious, that they want to blame Republicans in Congress if nothing is accomplished"

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a conferee in the payroll tax talks, said despite cheerful talk in recent weeks, negotiators have hit an impasse.

“The reality is that as of today we haven’t made much progress,” he said.