WASHINGTON (AP) — When last seen in Washington, House Republicans were furious with their own leader, Speaker John Boehner, and angry with their Senate Republican brethren over how the showdown over the Social Security tax cut turned into a year-end political debacle.
The holidays and three weeks away from the Capitol have tempered some of the bad feelings, but several GOP lawmakers’ emotions are still raw as Congress returns for a 2012 session certain to be driven by election-year politics and fierce fights over the size and scope of government and its taxing, spending and borrowing practices.
In the week before Christmas, House Republicans revolted against the Senate-passed deal to extend the payroll tax cut for two months for 160 million workers and ensure jobless benefits for millions more long-term unemployed. Facing intense political pressure, Boehner, R-Ohio, caved, daring tea partyers and other dissenters to challenge his decision to pass the short-term plan without a roll-call vote. None stepped forward to stop him.
“A lot of us who went into battle turned around and no one was behind us,” freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., said last week, sounding like the fight was still fresh and insistent that leadership had abandoned them.
“A lot of us are still smarting,” he added.
The two-month extension that Senate Republican and Democratic leaders Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid had characterized as a draw ended up as a big victory for President Barack Obama at the end of a year in which Republicans had forced him to accept a series of spending cuts.
Grievances are certain to be aired at a House GOP retreat in Baltimore later this week. The strategy and agenda session also will be a gripe session for some of the 242 House Republicans.
“It might be a little more spunky than normal,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.
Senators come back to Capitol Hill on Jan. 23.