After weeks of bitter partisan wrangling, the Senate is gone and the House is packing up with no sign of negotiation toward a compromise that would save an expiring tax break, as well as delay the expiration of unemployment benefits  and cuts to Medicare payments to doctors.

As of January 1, the payroll tax cut that has been in place throughout 2011 is scheduled to return to 6.2 percent from its current 4.2 percent.  Long-term unemployment benefits for approximately 3 million people also are poised to expire, and doctors face an estimated 20 percent cut in Medicare payments.

Before heading home for the holidays, House Republicans rejected the bipartisan bill the Senate had passed to preserve the tax cut for two months so Congress would have more time to work on a full-year extension.  House Republicans appointed eight negotiators to work over the holidays in hopes that the Senate would return to the bargaining table, but House Democrats refused to appoint conferees.  The Senate is not in session and is not expected to be so again until January 23.

The House is in pro form session through Friday, but Members are on 24-hour call just in case there is movement in the payroll tax issue. Some House members are planning to remain in Washington as a show of support, even as most of their colleagues defended decision to head home for the holidays.