House Speaker John Boehner brushed aside claims that Democrats made a major concession by dropping their demands for a tax hike for millionaires—claiming the party never had the votes for it, anyway.
"They were dropping something that they never had," Boehner said during a morning press conference. "They didn't give anything up because they never had the votes to pass it."
Boehner tried to strike a conciliatory tone as the standoff progresses, but showed no signs of backing off demands that a payroll tax cut extension be paired with legislation to speed along a transcontinental pipeline project, which Democrats consider to be a non-starter.
"It's the very definition of what the president has continued to call for," Boehner said. "We strongly believe that this is the right thing for the country."
Moments earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi mocked the Republican proposal, which was passed by the House of Representatives last week. Pelosi claimed it wasn't a serious bill, but something designed to fail. "It's like someone who says, 'Yes, I'll finally marry you, but I'll only do it on February 30th,'" Pelosi said.
The war of words continues as Democrats and Republicans play an elaborate chess match over several unresolved year-end issues, including the expiring payroll tax cut, expanded unemployment insurance set to run out, and an appropriations bill to keep the government from partially shutting down on Friday. Early Thursday morning, House Republicans released their own spending bill without Democratic support—raising fears that the Republican plan was to pass its own version and take off, leaving Senate Democrats between a rock and a hard place.
Boehner denied that was his plan, claiming he might let representatives go after finishing up House business, but he would bring them back if need be.
"There is absolutely no interest on our part to try to be strident about this," Boehner said.
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