POLITICS

Payroll tax cut stalemate may last through end of the year

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Stuck in a stalemate, President Barack Obama and his Republican rivals are slugging it out in Washington rather than reaching for a holiday season accord to prevent payroll taxes from going up on 160 million workers.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Spokesman Jay Carney says Obama urged Boehner to bring the House back into session from vacation to pass a two-month extension of the cuts previously approved by the Senate. Carney says Obama reiterated that he is committed to then working on a full-year extension of the cuts.

Carney would not say how Boehner responded to Obama's request.

Neither side wants to be blamed for giving voters a tax hike this holiday season, but as party leaders continue to point fingers, no one has yet backed down.

While voters express frustration with both sides, Democrats are hoping Republicans get most of the blame. On Wednesday, the normally pro-Republican editors of the Wall Street Journal blasted the GOP saying their leaders have blown it in these negotiations.

The tax increases, as well as cuts to Medicare doctors' fees and a lapse in jobless benefits, are due Jan. 1.

House Republicans are demanding that the Senate join negotiations to produce an agreement within days; Senate Democrats insist no talks will take place before the House approves a stopgap measure to buy more time.

A House vote Tuesday scuttled a bipartisan Senate deal for a two-month extension of all three policies: the payroll tax cuts, jobless benefits and Medicare fees.

After the House killed the Senate measure on a 229-193 vote, Obama signaled he'll use his presidential megaphone to try to force Republicans controlling the House into submission.

"Now let's be clear," Obama said at the White House. "The bipartisan compromise that was reached on Saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on Jan. 1. The only one."

The Obama campaign promptly took to Twitter and Facebook to fight it out. With their candidate's poll numbers rising, Democratic operatives seemed almost giddy at the prospect of a prolonged battle.

"The response was overwhelming," said a White House official requiring anonymity to discuss Obama's political efforts.

Republican lawmakers relished the battle as well, though some of them are too inexperienced to know that presidents — regardless of party — usually win such high-profile fights, like President Bill Clinton did over a 1995-96 government shutdown or President George W. Bush did in skirmishes on anti-terror policies.

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