It looked a bit like a breakthrough. With time running out on the calendar year, Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate agreed Friday night to a temporary compromise: Dems would get a two-month extension of the payroll tax break and a clean extension of unemployment benefits, while GOP lawmakers would get an expedited decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s hardly perfect, but it’s not a bad deal.

When the agreement reached the Senate floor yesterday, it was approved with overwhelming, bipartisan support, 89 to 10. The chamber has 47 Republicans, and only seven voted against it. Soon after, President Obama expressed his satisfaction with the compromise.

So, there’s reason for optimism, right? It’s not as if House Republicans are going to kill a bipartisan compromise on a middle-class tax cut, which just passed the Senate 89 to 10, the week before Christmas, right?


…House passage next week was thrown into serious doubt on Saturday afternoon, when a number of rank-and-file Republicans objected in a conference call with Speaker John A. Boehner, who tried to persuade them that it was good for their party, particularly the provision that would speed the decision process for construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast known as Keystone XL. Just a week ago, President Obama had threatened to veto that provision.

“I think the American people are not going to be too pleased about this,” said Representative Tom Graves of Georgia. “I would say it has a very steep uphill fight in our conference. It’s a joke.” […]

Some other Republican conference leaders, including the House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, also criticized of the two-month extension.

The Hill reported that rank-and-file House Republicans “voiced extreme opposition” to the compromise.

This is what happens when American elect radical children to run a chamber of Congress.

Some House GOP leaders say they want an extension. A few rank-and-file House Republicans don’t want to be on the hook for a middle-class tax increase. If Boehner wanted to reach out to House Dems on this, he probably wouldn’t have much trouble pulling 218 votes together.

But that’s just not how the process works anymore. The Speaker isn’t calling the shots; he’s taking the orders. And as of yesterday, Boehner’s caucus told him this isn’t good enough.

The radicalized House GOP caucus doesn’t want a middle-class tax cut, and is only open to the possibility if they’re rewarded with a series of right-wing goodies. House Republicans said they’d demand an expedited Keystone decision, and Senate Republicans successfully negotiated that into the deal.

Now House Republicans are considering holding the deal hostage (again) to see what else they can get.

There were some sighs of relief yesterday morning, when it looked like we wouldn’t have to worry about the payroll issue again until February. That relief was clearly premature — one must never underestimate what the House GOP is capable of.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.