Washington (CNN) - In the end it was House Speaker John Boehner's decision to back down and accept the two month payroll tax cut extension congressional Democrats and the White House wanted, and he backed it up by presiding over the final House session of the year to approve the measure.
Boehner announced the deal he struck with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on a conference call with House Republicans Thursday night, but took no questions from members and ended the call.
If unhappy House Republicans were going to show up to object to the short term deal, they were going to have to look Boehner in the eye to do it.
While the speaker of the House regularly opens up the House floor during weeks when Congress is in session, it is rare for the speaker to preside over "pro forma" sessions. It's usually left to a member who lives close to the Capitol. That's because most members have long left town, and the typical session is only a brief formality and not meant to handle major issues.
But this Friday morning's session was different. Minutes before 10 a.m. ET, Speaker Boehner arrived in the lobby outside the House floor and huddled with Georgia Republican Rep Rob Woodall and several floor aides, who appeared surprised to see him. Boehner told the group he would preside and then walked into the chamber.
Woodall stayed in the lobby and told reporters he was scheduled to be in Washington Friday to cover the session, but he noted that everyone expected Boehner to be in town for this one. "I was the back up plan," he said.
Asked why Boehner made the rare move to go to the House floor today, his spokesman would only say it was "his decision."
After a long week of intense political pressure on Boehner, it took only minutes for him to put the gavel down and finally end the showdown with Democrats and many in his own party. While several House GOP freshmen slammed the deal in press releases no one came to the floor to block it and force a full House vote.
On his walk back to his office, Boehner was surrounded by reporters asking him about the final deal, and he repeatedly declined to answer questions.
Tennessee Democratic Rep Steve Cohen approached the speaker through the crush of reporters and reached out to shake his hand and wish him happy holidays. "You're a good man – I feel for you," Cohen said to Boehner. Boehner shook his hand, then turned and kept walking.