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Payroll tax cut extension vote scheduled for late Monday

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After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., struck a deal on their two-month bill Friday night, McConnell expressed optimism that Congress would approve it and lawmakers would revisit the battle in February.

Congressional leaders say the debate over this bill is a make-or-break moment for John Boehner. (Photo: ABC News)

But Boehner, R-Ohio, said Sunday he opposed the Senate bill and wanted a yearlong version and other changes, a stance echoed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

They expressed their views a day after House GOP lawmakers on a conference call voiced vehement opposition to the Senate bill, saying it lacked serious spending cuts. They also said they were tired of their leaders striking compromises and not battling harder for their positions, according to several participants.

"We can find common ground," Boehner said on "Meet the Press" on NBC. Of the Senate bill, he said, "It's just the usual, let's just punt, kick the can down the road" approach.

Boehner did not specify the changes he would like in the bill, but touted "reasonable reductions in spending" and language blocking some Obama administration anti-pollution rules in a yearlong payroll tax bill the House approved last week. That bill covered its costs — more than $180 billion — by carving savings from federal workers, higher-income Medicare recipients, fees paid to insure mortgages and elsewhere.

Reid and Schumer said Sunday that Boehner had asked McConnell and Reid to negotiate a compromise, seemingly suggesting that Boehner had walked away from a deal. Republicans said that is untrue and said the House GOP played no role in last week's bargaining between the Senate leaders.

McConnell offered support for Boehner Sunday. His spokesman, Donald Stewart, said the best way to "provide certainty for job creators, employees and the long-term unemployed is through regular order" — a term used to describe the normal process of negotiations between the House and Senate.

The Senate bill also includes a provision dear to Republicans that would force Obama to approve a proposed Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline within 60 days unless he declares the project would damage the national interest.

Obama had previously said he would make no decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until 2013, allowing him to wait until after next November's elections to choose between two Democratic constituencies: unions favoring the project's thousands of jobs and environmentalists opposed to its potential pollution and massive energy use. Obama initially threatened to kill the payroll tax bill if it included the pipeline language but eventually retreated.

One potential hindrance to quick approval of a new payroll tax bill is the Senate's adjournment. It would take approval from all 100 senators to let the Senate hold any votes before the chamber's late January return.

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