Speaker of the House John Boehner admitted Wednesday that his strategy in last year's fight over extending the payroll tax cut was mistaken.
"We were picking the right fight, but I would argue we probably picked it at the wrong time," Boehner told reporters, referring to the House GOP's decision to battle against the Senate's two-month extension in favor of a yearlong measure in the waning days of the 2011 session.
After a lengthy standoff, House GOP leadership eventually agreed to the Senate proposal. President Barack Obama later signed the bill, ensuring that a 2-percent tax break for about 160 million people didn't expire on Jan. 1, while also extending emergency unemployment benefits and protecting Medicare payments to doctors.
Despite Boehner's concession that their timing had been regrettable, he maintained that House Republicans were correct to pursue the yearlong alternative.
"Listen, we've got a lot of disparate voices in our conference. And the president wanted the payroll tax credit extended for a year. So did we. We didn't think the Senate should leave. But it was pretty clear that the Senate wasn't coming back," Boehner said.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress are set to return to the drawing board next week to navigate a course to build upon the earlier legislation, which is set to expire on Feb. 29.
Tensions between Boehner and Tea Party-backed freshmen representatives are expected to be among the biggest obstacles to a solution. Some have speculated that the speaker's desire for a quicker, less-exhausting negotiating process may prompt him to rebuff the more conservative, anti-spending branch of his caucus.
"I think Boehner will seek a more accommodating approach to get a good percentage of Democrats to vote for it -- even if it costs him a lot of House Republican freshmen," one House Republican leadership aide recently told Reuters.
Mike McAuliff contributed to this report.