Tax Debate May Disrupt Lawmakers’ Christmas Holidays

Can Congress get away with taking a holiday break if deals on taxes and government funding aren't resolved by Christmas?

With a dramatic rise in tax rates looming on the January horizon if no agreement is reached, voters might not like to see lawmakers jetting off from Washington is the deal isn't done.

"We're already in overtime, we're in a lame duck session, there's no reason for this session other than the fact that the Congress didn't get their work done prior to the election when they should have gotten it done," said Frank Donatelli, chairman of GOPAC, a Republican political action committee.

Saying a January tax increase could send the nation's economy back into a recession, Donatelli, like many across the political spectrum, including many in the Obama administration, like outgoing top economic adviser Lawrence Summers, believes Congress has to move, at least on a tax rate compromise.

But each new day brings new disagreement among Democrats, and new warnings from Republicans that the deal cut between the Senate GOP and the White House must stand.

The Senate bill faces its key test vote today, and is slated for passage by Thursday. But when the legislation crosses Capitol Hill, House Democrats want to make changes to the Estate Tax provisions of the bill, a move that Republicans warn could derail weeks of delicate negotiations. Each new step added to the process puts a tax rate compromise farther down the congressional calendar and into conflict with their hopes to be home for Christmas.

Democratic political strategist Richard Socarides suggests the results of the midterm election created this potential Christmas.

"Just because the way the election played itself out, the schedule got very ambitious," he said. "But I think that generally speaking, that if they can, if they can resolve the issue of the tax cut and the extension of unemployment insurance, and pass a temporary spending bill for the government, that generally speaking, expectations will have been met."

But that's easier said than done, even if members of Congress have planes to catch on Christmas Eve. As much as taxpayers in general might be angry to see another 11 days come and go with no deal, liberals and conservatives alike might be even more upset if lawmakers end the debate without a fight.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is one of the Democrats calling for a Christmas spent haggling over tax rates and not sipping eggnog. In an open letter to the president, Brown suggests dropping the plan Obama negotiated with Republicans, starting over and fighting it out.

"If our colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to spend their holidays refusing to help working families struggling to enjoy a Christmas of their own unless their wealthy friends get another bailout, let them," Brown wrote.

If the deal were to break down as Brown and others hope, it would be politically difficult to rationalize any break, no matter what the occasion, with tax hike looming.

And the political consequence of going home for the holidays without meeting those expectations, and thus, creating an increase in their tax burden just as Americans are paying off Christmas debt, may be too high for some members to face; especially for Democrats who control both Houses of Congress during the lame-duck.

Fox News L.A. Holmes and Political Editor for Digital Chris Stirewalt contributed to this report.