That sound you hear in Washington is … silence.

The Senate is gone. The House has left behind a few stragglers to sit on a conference committee that may never meet. The president’s still around but itching to go to Hawaii to be with his family. Christmas is coming. Hanukkah is here.

The decision by House Republicans to deep-six a bipartisan deal to extend a payroll tax cut has left that party divided and given Democrats an issue with which to hammer them throughout the holidays. House leaders insist theirs is the principled stand because they want a year-long extension, not a two-month one.