By Alexander Bolton - 02/07/12 08:57 PM EST
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 Durbin (Ill.).
“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 Schumer (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 McConnell (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.