'Renewed Partisan Fury' Unleashed by GOP on Capitol Hill

On Thursday, reporter David Herszenhorn reported on the end of comity between Obama and the newly energized Republican Party during the lame-duck session of Congress, and you'll never guess who is to blame in the strongly worded "Republicans Threaten to Bring Senate to Halt Over Tax Dispute."

Not even 24 hours after President Obama met with senior Republican Congressional leaders and expressed hopes for a "new dialogue," renewed partisan fury engulfed the Senate on Wednesday, as Republicans threatened to block any legislation until a deal is reached to extend the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, potentially derailing the Democrats' busy end-of-year agenda.

The blunt threat was made in a letter to the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and signed by all 42 Senate Republicans. And it was reiterated by the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in a speech in which he accused Democratic leaders and Mr. Obama of ignoring the midterm election results.

The move put Democrats in a vise and sharply heightened tensions on Capitol Hill, where administration officials and senior lawmakers from both the House and Senate opened the first round of talks in hopes of reaching an accord on the expiring tax cuts. Officials reported no progress in those talks, and the Senate Republicans' threat suggested they had little appetite for compromise.

If Congress does not act by the end of the year, the lower rates expire for everyone, an outcome neither side wants.


If Republicans had any worry about being seen as uncooperative, they did not show it. Mr. Barrasso coolly objected to the Democrats' efforts to bring up other bills, often saying he knew little about what the Democrats were trying to do.

"What I do know," Mr. Barrasso said, "is 42 senators from this side of the aisle have signed a letter, a letter to say that what we ought to do and what we need to do is to find a way to fund the government and prevent a tax hike on every American come Jan. 1."


Democrats had hoped to put political pressure on Republicans by portraying them as fighting to maintain tax breaks even for millionaires and billionaires. But the Republicans pushed Democrats against a wall, making it clear that if they did not quickly agree to extend all of the lower rates, they risked accomplishing nothing else before the end of the year, when they lose their majority in the House.

In a October 20 story, Herszenhorn twice chided Republicans for making "simplistic" anti-spending arguments on the campaign trail.