A new political furor consumed Washington Monday, with Republican lawmakers apparently set to reject a Senate compromise to ease an end-of-year standoff over taxes with President Barack Obama.
The Senate passed the bill extending unemployment benefits and a payroll tax holiday for two months on Saturday, but rank-and-file Republicans in the House of Representatives revolted, and were expected to vote down the plan Monday.
Such a scenario would again put 160 million Americans at risk of a tax hike on January 1, and spark another period of high stakes brinkmanship between Republicans and the president.
A new round of dysfunction on Capitol Hill would also likely deepen already acute cynicism towards Congress felt by most American voters, and could shape the emerging battlefield of Obama's 2012 reelection bid.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner said that he would reject the bipartisan Senate plan because it only prolonged a payroll tax holiday for two months and meant uncertainty for business owners.
He said he expected the House would reject the compromise later Monday and would vote instead to negotiate a new compromise with the Senate.
"This is a vote on whether Congress will stay and do its work or go on vacation," Boehner said.
Democratic leaders in the Senate however have said that they will not call their lawmakers back to Washington to look again at the bill, setting up a new stalemate and a war of political spin between lawmakers and Obama aides.
Obama had originally asked for a year-long payroll tax extension but settled for a two-month reprieve for workers as Democrats in the Senate were unable to agree with Republicans on how to pay for the tax cut.
The White House was ready to fight a new battle in early 2012 on an issue that it believes puts Republicans in a tricky political spot.