Showdown looms over payroll tax cut extension

House Speaker John Boehner (left) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (right).
With just five days before Christmas, the end of year showdown in Congress over extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance is no closer to resolution. House Republicans are rejecting the Senate's compromise legislation passed over the weekend and Senate Democrats refuse to come back to Washington, DC to work out a compromise.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he expects the House will vote to reject the Senate bill on Tuesday.

"I expect that the House will disagree with the Senate amendment and instead vote to formally go to conference" House Speaker John Boehner said on Monday, referring to the formal process in which representatives known as "conferees" from the House and Senate meet to work out differences between bills so that both chambers can then pass a compromise package.

After rejecting the Senate bill and voting for the House and Senate to conference, the House will also pass a symbolic resolution reaffirming the House GOP position that the payroll tax and unemployment insurance extensions should be for one year and that the so-called "Doc Fix" to prevent doctors who treat Medicare patients from seeing a cut in their reimbursement rate ought to be extended for two years. The resolution will also call for House language forcing the president to make a decision on the Keystone Pipeline within 60 days, a provision that was included in the Senate legislation.

Senate Democrats are standing firm so far in their insistence that the Senate bill was the best compromise Congress can pass.

To move forward with a formal conference, Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would have to agree to actually name conferees and bring the Senate back to Washington in some fashion -- something Reid says he is unwilling to do.

"I will not re-open negotiations until the House follows through and passes this agreement that was negotiated by Republican leaders, and supported by 90 percent of the Senate" he said in a statement today.

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell has been largely silent on the subject since the Senate left town Saturday. His spokesman, Don Stewart, indicated that Senate Republicans would support going through "regular order" like a conference committee to work out differences.

But McConnell could get pushback from his own members since the majority of Republicans there supported the two-month plan.

Republican Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., slammed House Republicans for refusing to accept the two-month package.

"The House Republicans' plan to scuttle the deal to help middle-class families is irresponsible and wrong" Brown said in a statement today. He said the House is putting a tax cut and unemployment benefits at risk and that "We cannot allow rigid partisan ideology and unwillingness to compromise stand in the way of working together for the good of the American people."

Speaker Boehner, however, said there's still time to get a compromise between the two chambers and prevent a tax hike for 160 million Americans in January.

"I don't believe that it's going to be that difficult to come to an agreement that would make reforms in the unemployment insurance program and do so in, I think, a fiscally responsible way" he said.

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    Jill Jackson is a CBS News senior political producer.