Jay Carney

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press / December 19, 2011)

The White House said Monday it remains hopeful that House Republicans will pass the Senate-backed bill that extends the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance benefits for two months, despite House Republican leadership assertions that the chamber will reject the measure.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, at his daily briefing, suggested that if a comparatively small number of House Republicans split with their leadership and voted for the bill, it would pass.

"The House needs to act or else Americans are going to have their taxes go up," Carney said. He added that if all House Democrats support the measure, only about 12% of House Republicans would need to follow suit "for this thing to become law."

"We remain hopeful that the House will act and that House Republicans will do the right thing," he said.

Carney mentioned that in a conference call with fellow House Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner had urged them to vote for the bill passed by the Senate. Boehner, in public remarks, has said that he opposes the Senate bill, preferring an alternative that would extend the payroll tax cut for a full year. Obama wants that, too, but the Senate couldn't agree on a compromise that would extend the tax break for that long.

"So he was for it before he was against it," Carney said of Boehner, ratcheting up the rhetorical attack on the House Republican leader.

Carney suggested that Obama will postpone his Hawaiian vacation if the impasse over the payroll tax cut persists. Obama's top goal, Carney said, is to avoid a scenario where payroll taxes rise after Jan. 1.

Obama's wife and daughters are already in Honolulu, awaiting the president.

Carney said that Obama is "here now and will be here as Congress tries to sort this out. Because it's essential to him. It's his No. 1 priority right now that middle-class Americans don't have their taxes go up on Jan 1."