POLITICS

House GOP rejects 2-month payroll tax cut

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Democrats and the White House had reversed course and accepted GOP demands on Keystone, which contributed to sweeping GOP support for the Senate measure. The White House signaled that Obama would block the project.

Until this weekend, it was assumed that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, 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, along with 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.

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.

"If you say you want to do this for a year, put your vote where your rhetoric is," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a member of the House GOP leadership. "If you're not willing to work over the holidays, admit to the American people that you're not willing to work over the holidays."

"Right now Americans want two things from their Congress: middle class tax relief and compromise," said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the House Democrats' fundraising committee. "House Republican partisanship failed on both counts."

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