12/22/2011 09:04 am ET Updated Dec 22, 2011

Payroll Tax Cut Fight: John McCain Says Failure To Reach An Agreement Hurts GOP

WASHINGTON -- Sen. John McCain said Congress' failure to reach agreement on legislation extending a payroll tax cut for working Americans "hurts the Republican Party." The GOP's 2008 presidential nominee said his party made a mistake in voting down the Senate-passed version of a bill that would have kept the current payroll tax relief intact for at least two more months.

McCain told CBS's "The Early Show" he feels badly for 160 million Americans, whom he called "innocent bystanders." He said the House should pass the same bill that cleared the Senate "but put a year on it" and send it back.

McCain said in the CBS interview, "This is really tragic for the American people, and I would say that next November, no incumbent is safe, nor should they be."

The Arizona senator also blamed President Barack Obama for not doing more to end the standoff on CNN's "American Morning." He said past presidents "exerted a lot more leadership than going shopping," according to The Hill, referring to President Barack Obama's Christmas shopping trip Wednesday. "Republicans are losing this fight. We need to get back on track," he added.

McCain said earlier this month that Republicans were getting "picked apart" on the issue. He added, "I think there is certainly ample evidence that the Democrats are winning this debate."

McCain approvingly tweeted the Wall Street Journal editorial accusing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of possibly helping Obama win reelection because of their handling of the payroll tax cut extension.

One House Republican who voted with Speaker Boehner to reject the Senate version said that a two-month extension may end up happening anyway. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said in the Wall Street Journal Thursday that "if we can't get the Senate sign-off on a one-year extension soon--in the next few days--we're going to have to move quickly to extend the payroll tax for a duration of time less than a year." He added, "That may end up being two months."

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) also attacked House Republicans for not approving the Senate's two-month extension. "The House Republicans' plan to scuttle the deal to help middle-class families is irresponsible and wrong," he said in a recent statement.

UPDATE: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that the House should pass the two-month extension. He also called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to convene negotiators on the longer-term extension that the House GOP wants.