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Boehner: GOP picked payroll tax fight at 'wrong time'


House Speaker John Boehner expressed a degree of regret on Wednesday over the way a payroll tax fight played out at the end of 2011.

Boehner said at his first press availability since Congress reconvened this week that, while he felt Republicans were in the right to insist upon the extension of an expiring payroll tax cut for a full year (rather than just two months), they might have erred in having that battle right before the Dec. 31 deadline.

"We were picking the right fight, but I would argue we probably picked it at the wrong time," he said at an availability on Capitol Hill.

The fight was politically bruising for Republicans; Democrats and President Obama pummeled the House GOP for reneging on an apparent agreement and forcing a showdown on the tax cut. The House GOP ultimately relented and voted to extend the payroll tax cut for two months in exchange for crafting a formal conference committee to haggle over the details in legislation to extend that tax cut for the rest of the calendar year.

"We didn't think the senate should leave. But it was pretty clear that the Senate wasn't coming back," Boehner said of the Democratic-controlled upper chamber's stance in the debate.

But the speaker's admission comes amid new poll numbers published today which suggest that the public holds Republicans in Congress more accountable than Obama for dysfunction in Washington.

A New York Times/CBS News poll found that 60 percent of U.S. adults believe the president is trying to work with Republicans to accomplish an agenda; just 27 percent of Americans said they believe Republicans in Congress are working with Obama to try and accomplish something. Nearly half of Republicans included in that sample, according to the NYT's account, even said they didn't think their party's leaders in Congress were working in earnest to get work done.