In a bid to dramatize the impasse, House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer and Rep. Chris van Hollen (D) of Maryland took to the House floor in a bid to pass the Senate bill by unanimous consent. They were gaveled down at the start of a pro forma session that only lasted a few minutes.
“The House Republican leadership never even allowed a vote on the bipartisan Senate bill,” says Mr. Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “The reason they didn’t allow a vote was that they knew it would pass on a bipartisan vote.”
The payroll tax impasse began on Tuesday, as House Republicans rejected a Senate bill that would have extended the payroll tax and other expiring provisions for two months, on a party-line vote, 229 to 193. The Senate bill, which passed 89 to 10, also extended expiring federal benefits for jobless workers and blocked a 27.4 percent drop in payments to doctors serving Medicare patients, set to take hold on Jan. 1.
But on Wednesday, the Speaker and eight negotiators appointed to conference with Senate Democrats met at an empty table and under a hail of criticism.