If they can't come to an agreement it means most working Americans will get a smaller paycheck starting in a couple of weeks and the long term unemployed could lose their benefits.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she'd hoped this would all be over by now.
"But apparently the Tea Party tail is wagging the elephant," she said.
Pelosi was referring to the House refusal to call for an up or down vote on a Senate compromise measure to extend a payroll tax cut for the next two months.
"All we're asking is that our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol come back and resolve our differences," Speaker of the House John Boehner said.
House Republicans say they want a yearlong extension of the tax cut, a measure they've tied to construction of an oil sands pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
President Obama said he would veto a tax cut measure that included the pipeline provision, so the Senate offered up a two month compromise to get the cuts passed before the end of the year.
"This is really outrageous, it's un-American, and it's wrong," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said.
Lee insisted americans want the certainty of the senate compromise. Republicans are insisting just the opposite.
"Do they want a payroll tax cut extension for 12 months or two months," Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Florida, said.
Both sides believe the public is behind them, but according to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, just 20 percent of Americans approve of the job Republicans in Congress are doing, while Obama's approval rating has gone up seven points since October.
"I'm calling on the Speaker and the House Republican leadership to bring up the Senate bill for a vote and give the American people the assurance they need in this holiday season," Obama said.
House leaders on both sides say they're not leaving Washington just yet. But rank and file members of the House are threatening to take off unless some other deal can be worked out.