But House GOP leaders then were hit with a wave of criticism, perhaps most tellingly from fellow Republicans, who urged them to agree to the two-month stopgap.

A key development was a Dec. 22 statement from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that said the House should approve the two-month extension and Senate Democrats should agree to start negotiations soon on a further extension, through December 2012.

Hours after McConnell issued his statement, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had agreed to what McConnell had advocated.