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House Democrats Press on Payroll Issue

House Democrats today sought to keep up the pressure to extend the payroll tax cut extension through the year, using a media event to portray themselves as ready to work even with Congress in recess.

The House is scheduled to return on Jan. 17, but more than two dozen Democrats gathered on Capitol Hill for a press conference in which they rolled out a series of new talking points criticizing Republicans.

Voters “want to know why we are not on the job right now,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said, weaving a series of new message points in her longstanding charges that the GOP has failed to take up jobs legislation. Pelosi peppered the new messaging throughout her comments, including exhortations to “build ladders of opportunity” to “reignite the American dream.”

“Where are [Republicans]? I don’t know. Where should they be? Right here in this Capitol,” she added.

Other Democrats used identical language, repeating the “reignite the American dream” as a mantra.

“I would hope some of our Republican friends would hurry back to Washington to help us,” Assistant Minority LeaderJames Clyburn (S.C.) said, while Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) criticized Republicans for “continuing their extended vacation.”

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), was unimpressed.

“As House Democratic Leaders parrot a talking point that an independent fact-checker called a ‘pants on fire’ lie, House Republicans are focused on the American peoples’ top priority: jobs. And House Democratic Leaders know that, since they praised House-passed jobs bills last year. Amnesia is not a jobs plan,” Steel said in a statement.

Democrats also urged Republicans to quickly begin proceedings of a conference committee on a longer extension of the payroll holiday, which will also likely decide the fate of an extension of unemployment insurance benefits and other provisions.

Noting that House and Senate Democratic conferees have held individual meetings, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) — a member of the conference committee — said, “We hope [a full meeting] will be called very, very soon.”

“We need to avoid a return to brinkmanship,” Levin added.

The event, held in a largely empty Capitol, followed a two-hour meeting of senior Democrats and some rank-and-file Members to discuss messaging tactics.

In the wake of last month’s stand-off, House Democrats believe they have an opportunity to play a significant role in the conference committee and broader political war with Republicans.

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