Republican House Speaker John Boehner denied Democrats' suggestions that he may be stalling a "fiscal cliff" deal with President Barack Obama in order to stave off a potential conservative revolt that could cost him the top job in Congress.
"I'm not concerned about my job as speaker. What I'm concerned about is doing the right thing," Boehner told reporters at his weekly press conference.
The White House and Congress are under pressure to reach an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff by Jan. 1. A series of tax hikes and sweeping budget cuts will be triggered if no deal is reached.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, said on Wednesday that Boehner might not move forward with a compromise until after the Jan. 3 leadership elections. The speaker has faced grumbling from some of the most conservative members of his caucus—chiefly over prospects he could agree to raise taxes as part of a final deal—though none has yet mounted a serious challenge to the Ohio lawmaker
"I hope he wouldn't avoid tough decisions simply to take us into January after his swearing-in, but I'm becoming increasingly worried that that's exactly what's going on," Van Hollen says.
Shortly after Boehner's press conference, a top Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, echoed that same allegation.
"What is John Boehner waiting for when it comes to tax cuts for working families across America?" Durbin asked. "Is he waiting for Jan. 3rd, his election as speaker? I hope it's not that."
But Boehner has reason to be at least a little concerned. Some Republicans say the decision to keep the fiscal cliff talks with Obama secret reflects a desire to shoulder out people who might leak controversial elements of a compromise to undermine the speaker. And the National Review reported on Wednesday that members of the conservative Republican Study Committee met to discuss Boehner's negotiating tactics.