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House Republicans increasingly alone as holiday nears

When the debate of contested issues turns eyes toward Capitol Hill, press photographers are experts in capturing subtle nuances in the heat of the moment. Today's photos by Chip Somodevilla are no exception.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Speaker of the House John Boehner listens during a news conference with Rep. Nan Hayworth, from left, Rep. Fred Upton, Rep. Kevin Brady and fellow GOP House members who want to negotiate new payroll tax cut legislation at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 22.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is chased by reporters after a news conference with fellow GOP House members who want to negotiate new payroll tax cut legislation at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 22.

NBC's Libby Leist and Frank Thorp describe what's at the heart of the matter:

After days of silence, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is calling on the House GOP to pass the two-month payroll-tax-cut extension -- and for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) to appoint negotiators to work with the House on a long-term deal after that extension is passed.

"House Republicans sensibly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms," his statement says. "These goals are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both."

House Speaker John Boehner's office had this response: "The House and Senate have two different bills, but the same goal," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. "That is why we believe, as Senator McConnell suggested, the two chambers should work to reconcile the two bills so that we can provide a full year of payroll tax relief -- and do it before year's end."

Read their full story on first read.