Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, joined by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, at right, talks to reporters after passage of legislation to extend Social Security payroll tax cuts, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats backed away from their demand for higher taxes on millionaires as part of legislation to extend Social Security tax cuts for most Americans on Wednesday as Congress struggled to clear critical year-end bills without triggering a partial government shutdown.
But Republicans, frustrated that a bipartisan $1 trillion funding bill was being blocked by Senate Democrats, floated the possibility of repackaging the measure and passing it Friday in defiance of President Barack Obama and his allies in control of the Senate. Stopgap funding runs out Friday at midnight.
In a written statement late Wednesday, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the administration objected to several environmental, financial and other provisions in the mammoth spending bill and said Congress should approve a short-term spending measure to avoid a federal shutdown and give lawmakers time to iron out their final disputes.
With time beginning to run short, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., met with Obama at the White House, then returned to the Capitol and sat down with the two top Republicans in Congress, Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Taken together, the developments signaled the end game for a year of divided government — with a tea party-flavored majority in the House and Obama’s allies in the Senate — that has veered from near-catastrophe to last-minute compromise repeatedly since last January.
The rhetoric was biting at times.