House GOP Rejects Payroll Tax Cut, Boehner Calls on President to Make Senate Bargain

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Flanked by House GOP members, U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) speaks during a media availability December 20, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Flanked by House GOP members, Speaker Boehner speaks about rejection of the two-month payroll tax extension. (Alex Wong/Getty)

The House Tuesday rejected legislation to extend a payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for two months, drawing a swift rebuke from President Barack Obama that Republicans were threatening higher taxes on 160 million workers on Jan. 1.

Obama, in an appearance in the White House briefing room after the House vote, said the two-month compromise is the only way to stop payroll taxes from going up by two percentage points.

"Now let's be clear," Obama said in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room. "The bipartisan compromise that was reached on Saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on January 1st. The only one."

Obama said failure to pass the Senate version of the payroll tax cut extension could endanger the U.S. economic recovery, which he described as "fragile but moving in the right direction."

House Republicans controlling the chamber want instead immediate negotiations on a year-long plan with the Senate - where the top Democrat again ruled out talks until the House passes the stopgap measure.

"President Obama needs to call on Senate Democrats to go back into session ... and resolve this bill as soon as possible," said House Speaker Boehner, R-Ohio. "I need the president to help out."

If Congress doesn't break the stalemate and pass a bill by the end of the year, payroll taxes will go up by 2 percentage points for 160 million workers on Jan. 1. Almost 2 million people could lose unemployment benefits in January as well, and doctors would bear big cuts in Medicare payments.

The House vote, 229-193, kicks the measure back to the Senate, where the bipartisan two-month measure passed on Saturday by a sweeping 89-10 vote. The Senate then promptly left Washington for the holidays. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says he won't allow bargaining until the House approves the Senate's short-term measure.

"I have been trying to negotiate a yearlong extension with Republicans for weeks, and I am happy to continue doing so as soon as the House of Representatives passes the bipartisan compromise to protect middle-class families, but not before then," said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The House vote caps a partisan debate on Obama's jobs agenda, which has featured numerous campaign-style appearances but little real bipartisan negotiation, other than Senate talks last week that produced the two-month extension.

The Senate's short-term, lowest-common-denominator approach would renew a 2 percentage point cut in the Social Security payroll tax, plus jobless benefits averaging about $300 a week for the long-term unemployed, and would prevent a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors. The $33 billion cost would be financed by a .10 percentage point hike in home loan guarantee fees charged by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the administration says would raise the monthly payment on a typical $210,000 loan by about $15 a month.

The House passed a separate plan last week that would have extended the payroll tax cut for one year. But that version also contained spending cuts opposed by Democrats and tighter rules for jobless benefits.

Until this weekend, it was assumed that Boehner had signed off on the Senate measure. After all, it was agreed to by Boehner's trusted confidante, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Boehner declined on several occasions Friday to reject the idea.

But rank-and-file House Republicans erupted in frustration at the Senate measure, which drops changes to the unemployment insurance system pressed by conservatives, a freeze in the salaries of federal workers and cuts to President Barack Obama's health care law.

Also driving their frustration was that the Senate, as it so often does, appeared intent on leaving the House holding the bag - pressuring House lawmakers to go along with its plan. Tuesday's vote technically puts the onus back on the Senate - but also invites a full-blown battle with Obama, whose poll numbers have inched up during the battling over his jobs initiative.

Both sides were eager to position themselves as the strongest advocates of the payroll tax cut, with House Republicans accusing the Senate of lollygagging on vacation and Senate Democrats countering that the House was seeking a partisan battle rather than taking the obvious route of approving the stopgap bill to buy more time for negotiations.


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Comments [3]

Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

How 'bout this... The House of Representatives passes their version and the two bills go to conference where they are reconciled. Isn't that the way the system is supposed to work?

Instead, we get a load of chin-music from Weepy and the obstructors. And they have the nerve to think of themselves as good Americans?

Dec. 22 2011 12:54 PM

Come on Speaker Boehner, man-up, stop crying for the President to save you and bring the Senate Bill to the floor of the House for a vote. What is scaring you so?

Dec. 20 2011 07:10 PM

Your Representatives, Your Choices, Your Fault

The House rejected extending the payroll tax-cut, and why because they insist it was not to their liking, it didn’t suit their preferences or sensibilities. Just another in a long line of partisan ready-made disagreements over which to demonstrate their vigorous support of the American public. The House Republicans have once again seized this position despite the fact that the public doesn’t support their position, their reasoning or their self-aggrandizing posturing on this minor issue. I don’t mean to put forth the Republicans as the singular pathetic and foolish members of Congress, they are simply the morons of the moment. I am sure that they will be displaced or joined by Democrats as they collectively stumble along seeking the next opportunity to show their addlepated incompetence.

But surely the logic of the House and its leadership makes sense and justifies their present unproductive resistance to progress. In examining the Republicans stance the public would, I am sure, rush to Congress’ defense as being exactly what the public would think Congress should be doing. This sympathy for Congress would be regardless of the persistence in poll after poll on Congressional effectiveness that the public generally reviles Congress and holds them in abject contempt.

The Republicans do not think that the payroll tax cut extension should only be extended two months. They want it extended for a year. Of course the Republicans want a few other things added. But extending the tax-cut two months is just unreasonable, because as they say: “It just kicks the can down the road.” Now you might question their logic on this point and I am sure that they have some compelling answer and rationale for this view. But really, rather than accepting a two month extension; their choice is to not extend it at all! Because if they extend it two months then they don’t get any future chance to present a plan that is more thought out and widely supported; except the one they could spend between now and two months from now justifying to the public. Well, perhaps their staffers might explain to them that in two months Congress will be presented with the same issue.

The Republicans are also insistent that the payroll tax-cut extension include a deadline for a Presidential decision on the Keystone pipeline. I suspect that the Republicans are under a tremendous amount of pressure from campaign contributors to get the pipeline approved. So leveraging the payroll tax-cut issue to help force in a comingled decision on this completely independent, unrelated and exceedingly more controversial issue is the type of disingenuous and duplicitous strategy that members of Congress have found so useful to force the public to accept something that they cannot secure on its own merits.


The remainder at blog of now4yourconsideration

Dec. 20 2011 05:19 PM

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