POLITICS

Payroll tax cut vote set for Friday

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"Has this place become so dysfunctional that even when we agree to things, we can't do it?" Obama said. "Enough is enough."

President Obama could sign the bill as soon as Friday. (Photo: Associated Press)

The top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was a driving force behind Thursday's agreement, imploring Boehner to accept the deal that McConnell and Reid had struck last week and passed with overwhelming support in both parties.

Meanwhile, tea party-backed House Republicans began to abandon their leadership.

"I don't think that my constituents should have a tax increase because of Washington's dysfunction," freshman Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., said.

What if cuts had expired?

If the cuts had expired as scheduled, 160 million workers would have seen a tax increase of $20 a week for an average worker earning about $50,000 a year. And up to 2 million people without jobs for six months would start losing unemployment benefits averaging $300 a week. Doctors would have seen a 27 percent cut in their Medicare payments, the product of an archaic 1997 cut that Congress has been unable to fix.

Even though GOP leaders like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., promised that the two sides could quickly iron out their differences, the truth is that it'll take intense talks to figure out both the spending cuts and fee increases required to finance the measure.

Just hours before he announced the breakthrough, Boehner had made the case for a yearlong extension. But on a brief late afternoon conference call, he informed his colleagues it was time to yield.

"He said that as your leader, you've in effect asked me to make decisions easy and difficult, and I'm making my decision right now," said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., paraphrasing Boehner's comments.

Kingston said the conference call lasted just minutes and Boehner did not give anyone time to respond.

Tea Partiers still not happy

There was still carping among tea party freshmen upset that GOP leaders had yielded.

"Even though there is plenty of evidence this is a bad deal for America ... the House has caved yet again to the president and Senate Democrats," Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said. "We were sent here with a clear set of instructions from the American people to put an end to business as usual in Washington, yet here we are being asked to sign off on yet another gimmick."

Almost forgotten in the firestorm is that McConnell and Boehner had extracted a major victory last week, winning a provision that would require Obama to make a swift decision on whether to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would bring Canadian oil to the U.S. and create thousands of construction jobs. To block the pipeline, Obama would have to declare that is not in the nation's interest.

Obama wanted to put the decision off until after the 2012 election.

House Republicans did win one concession in addition to a promise that Senate Democrats would name negotiators on the one-year House measure: a provision to ease concerns that the 60-day extension would be hard for payroll processing companies to implement.

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