Player of the week: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

During the summer’s battle over raising the federal debt limit, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had the better cards because he had the most political leverage.

But now, Reid and the Democratic Party are in a good position to pummel the divided GOP on the popular tax extension.

In some ways, though, Democrats are also split on this issue. From a policy standpoint, they want the tax holiday to pass. They believe it would bolster the economy, which would in turn enhance President Obama’s reelection chances.

But a deal on the payroll tax would take it off the table as a campaign talking point, just days away from the start of the election year. 

That’s why Reid is such a key figure this week. 

He is a legislative dealmaker but is also working hard (and perhaps in the opposite direction) to keep his Senate majority.

If there is going to be a deal, Reid can make Boehner come to him. Both parties contain critics of the tax holiday extension, but there are far more in the GOP.

That was evident earlier this month when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered an alternative tax holiday plan that attracted only 20 Republican votes.

Boehner has crafted his own alternative that has sweeteners for conservatives, including provisions calling for action on the stalled Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas.

The Speaker is hoping to change the political dynamic by passing that bill even though it’s not going anywhere in the Senate. 

Reid and Boehner have a good working relationship. They averted a government shutdown earlier this year and later struck a deal that raised the debt limit and set up the supercommittee on deficit reduction. 

But the Reid-Boehner relationship will be tested this week — and perhaps next week if negotiations stall over the next several days.