House Republicans: ‘We Are Here in Washington Working Today’

By Susan Jones | December 21, 2011 | 11:26 AM EST

House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., walks of the floor of the House chamber Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

( - The American people are "sitting there across America, scratching their heads, wondering what Washington is doing," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Wednesday.   

House Republican leaders said they are still trying to do the people’s work – but the fact is, they can’t do much unless Senate Democrats agree to negotiate with them on their bill extending the payroll tax cut.

On Tuesday, House Republicans rejected a bipartisan Senate bill that would have extended the payroll tax cut for two months. Instead, Republicans passed their own bill, calling for a 12-month extension. So nothing will get done until House and Senate conferees conduct formal negotiations to resolve the differences between the two bills.

Criticism poured in from all sides on Wednesday, including from the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, which essentially accused House Republicans of painting themselves into a corner.

But Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) again defended their political maneuvering:

It's time for Democrats to "come to the table and resolve these differences," Boehner said in a brief appearance before the television cameras Wednesday morning. "I think it's important to note that the president, bipartisan leaders in the House and bipartisan leaders in the Senate have all really asked for the same thing over the course of the last several months -- let's extend the payroll tax credit for a year.

“And all we're asking for is to get the Senate members over here to work with us to resolve our differences so we can do what everybody wants to do -- extend the payroll tax credit for the next year."

The Democrat-led Senate adjourned over the weekend, after passing a compromise two-month payroll tax extension. Senate leaders won’t agree to send conferees back to Washington, and President Obama isn’t urging anything of the kind. Instead, he’s using the Republicans’ actions against them, accusing them of playing political games that have adverse repercussions for the middle class.

If the player does not load, please check that you are running the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.

Although Capitol Hill has emptied for the holidays, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Wednesday said Republicans are still hard at work: "We are here in Washington working today, because we want to make sure that the middle class and working families of this country have some certainty that their taxes will not go up for the entirety of next year. And that's the House position. And frankly, that's the only position with which we differ with the Senate.

“And we're asking...for the Senate majority leader to appoint conferees to come join us to try and finish the work for the American people before the end of the year. And the very fact that the President sits probably a mile away from here down Pennsylvania Avenue – we’re sitting here – people wondering why can’t they just get together and talk and work this out. And that’s exactly what we’re asking to do.”

Cantor said there’s still time to get the job done. Ten days, to be exact.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has sent Boehner a letter, urging him to bring House lawmakers back to Washington to approve the Senate-passed bill.

As the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote on Wednesday, “GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.

“Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he's spent most of his presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.

The editorial says House Republicans should cut their losses and pass the Senate bill as soon as possible to avoid giving Democrats more ammunition against them.