A quiet surrender for the GOP

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 16 2012 8:00 p.m. MST

In the public relations war that played out late last year, Republicans said Democrats wanted to raise taxes to cover the cost, while Democrats said Republicans wanted to cut Medicare.

Democrats countered that they only wanted the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, and Republicans said they had no intention of cutting benefits for millions of seniors.

It was a politically charged deadlock that defied solution in December, and again when the two sides picked up the negotiations after the first of the year.

In the end, Republicans decided it wasn't worth the struggle.

Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy announced they would introduce legislation to extend the tax cuts — minus any provisions to protect the deficit — and coupled their retreat with an accusation that Democratic "obstructionism and stonewalling" had made them do it.

As politically significant as the message was the roster of messengers.

The standoff last December exposed rifts within the leadership — particularly between Boehner and Cantor and their aides — that prompted protests from members of the rank and file, according to numerous officials.

That led to quiet efforts to repair relationships.

And a more public campaign to put responsibility for the weak economy back onto Obama.

"Last fall, I said that the only reason we are even talking about a payroll tax break or an extension of unemployment benefits is because the president's economic policies have failed," Boehner said at a news conference as the final details were ironed out.

"I still believe that to be the case today."

David Espo is AP's chief congressional correspondent.

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