The payroll tax debate in Congress is tearing asunder Reagan's Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
In an unusual intra-party dispute, House Republicans rejected a bill supported by a majority of Senate Republicans to extend the payroll tax holiday for two months on Tuesday. Now that the votes are on the scoreboard, Republicans in both chambers are openly trashing each other's decision.
"House Republicans’ plan to scuttle the deal to help middle-class families is irresponsible and wrong," tweeted Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachussets. "The refusal to compromise now threatens to increase taxes on hard-working Americans and stop unemployment benefits for those out of work," he elaborated in a remark to The Hill. Brown may have an excuse to trash-talk fellow Republicans, he faces a tough re-election bid against liberal hero Elizabeth Warren, but he wasn't the only one firing off barbs.
Speaking out against Speaker Boehner, Republican Senator Dean Heller said the House's tactics were "about political leverage, not about what’s good for the American people. Congress can work out a solution without stopping the payroll tax-cut extension for the middle class,” reports The Washington Post. On the House side, there were plenty of searing remarks.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the Senate was thinking,” said Republican Congressman Allen West of Florida on Tuesday. He called the deal brokered by fellow Republican and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell "crap." Laying on the criticism of McConnell, Republican Congressman Tom Latham of Iowa said "Mr. McConnell knew the position of our leadership was [we] wanted to do a year-long. I don’t know what happened.”
At the center of the disagreement is Boehner and McConnell but neither GOP leader is explaining how they wound up on opposite sides of the payroll tax debate. Most suspect Boehner failed to bring House Republicans onboard with the payroll tax deal after promising McConnell they would support it—but Boehner has said he supported a 1-year extension all along. Roll Call reports that House Republicans are actively trying to figure out what went wrong between Boehner and McConnell.
"People didn’t quite understand how, when the Speaker left the meeting with Sen. McConnell and Sen. Reid, this abomination was what was sent back to us,” Republican Congressman Steven LaTourette tells the newspaper. He says Boehner seemed “befuddled. ... The question was asked directly of him. That question was asked, ‘What’s the disconnect between you and Sen. McConnell?’ And he said he doesn’t know.” When Roll Call asked him about the "now infamous high-five" celebrating the Senate deal, LaTourette said "It should have been a low-five."