A bipartisan bill extending the payroll tax cut two months faces grim prospects in the House of Representatives on Monday, as House Republicans are vocally balking at the legislation, leading House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to demand further talks.
Well, it's pretty clear that I and our members oppose the Senate bill, Boehner said on NBC's Meet the Press. It's only for two months. You know, the president said we shouldn't go on vacation until we get our work done. And frankly, House Republicans agree.
The bill was ironed out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., in an unusual weekend vote, maintaining the reduced rate of 4.2 percent on payroll taxes, extending unemployment benefits and pushing back planned reductions in reimbursements to doctors from Medicare.
The measure passed by an 89-10 vote on Saturday, and appeared cruising towards a floor vote in the House, with Boehner expressing support for the bill. Its prospects became dicey when reports stated the Tea Party faction of the Republican caucus vocally opposed the deal, claiming the Senate chose to kick the can down the road for two months.
The bill was laced with riders aimed at sweetening the deal for weary Republicans, including an expedited decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which the Obama administration had originally shelved. The project has been depicted as a job creator by GOP lawmakers, but faces heavy opposition from environmentalists. Still, the move was apparently not enough to entice Republican representatives.
Frankly, I don't think anybody in the House Republican conference sees it as much of a compromise, said Rep. Tom Cole R-Okla.
Democrats Pressure Boehner
Democrats appeared willing to take Boehner to task, should the bill fail in the House, painting the decision as between the Senate bill or no extension at all.
I would hate to think that Speaker Boehner is refusing to act on this bipartisan compromise because he is afraid it will actually pass, but I cannot imagine any other reason why he would not bring it up for a vote, Reid said.
Lawmakers will return to the Capitol Monday night, with the Senate bill facing an up or down vote. Should it fail, Boehner expressed hope that a conference committee will bring both houses together to reach a deal. The House Speaker pointed to the similar nature of negotiations that ultimately produced a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that passed Congress last week, averting a partial government shutdown.
Earlier this week, both the House and Senate, in a bipartisan, bicameral way, funded our government through September 30, Boehner said. We did it in a regular process, regular order, and what the regular order here is a formal conference between the House and Senate.
According to reports, Republican lawmakers who initially doubted the bill's ability to help the economy are particularly opposed to its swiping of $120 billion from the Social Security Trust Fund. GOP representatives want the lost revenue to be covered by spending reductions, while Democrats have pushed tax increases on the wealthy.
Should lawmakers fail to pass an extension, 160 million workers will face a 2 percent tax increase next year, unemployment benefits will be terminated for many jobless Americans and doctors will face a revenue drop from treating Medicare patients.
The latest Republican intransigence may also be fueled by the prospect of having to vote against a tax cut during an election year. Many in the GOP have expressed doubt over the cut's ability to effectively fix the economy, whatever scant help it provides. Facing a potential vote on the unpopular cut in the throes of an election year would not bode well for naysayers.