House GOP out to reshape Senate’s payroll tax cut
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is edging closer to yet another down-to-the wire showdown as House Republicans shun a bipartisan payroll tax cut bill approved by the Senate and prepare to write a package to please rank-andfile GOP lawmakers clamoring for a more conservative version.
The House was returning to work today, two days after the Senate easily approved a compromise solidly supported by both parties and left town for a month. The House scheduled a vote late today, with leaders saying they would either formally request talks with the Senate on a new bill or make changes in the Senate measure that were uncertain late Sunday.
Without congressional action, the payroll tax would rise 2 percentage points on Jan. 1 — a boost that Democrats eagerly said would be the GOP’s fault. The brinksmanship is a familiar pattern this year between the two parties, who have narrowly averted a federal default and several government shutdowns in past fights.
Extending the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits have been a keystone of President Barack Obama’s and congressional Democrats’ effort to spur a revival of the flaccid economy. Congressional Republican leaders also say they support the idea, but some of their rank-and-file remain unconvinced, saying the unemployment coverage is too generous and that cutting the payroll tax does not create jobs.
The Senate bill would cut the payroll tax, extend jobless benefits and avoid cuts in Medicare payments to doctors through February. Both sides say they want to renew all three for a full year, but bargainers have so far failed to agree on how to pay for a package that size, which could cost roughly $200 billion.
“If House Republicans refuse to pass this bipartisan bill to extend the payroll tax cut, there will be a significant tax increase on 160 million hardworking Americans in 13 days that would damage the economy and job growth,” Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, said Sunday.
“It is a make-or-break moment for John Boehner’s speakership,” said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democratic leader. “You cannot let a small group at the extreme resort to brinksmanship every time there is a major national issue and try to dictate every move this nation makes.”
After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, DNev., 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.