Speaker John A. Boehner, who had urged his members on Saturday to support the bill, did an about-face on Sunday and said he and other House Republicans were opposed to the temporary extension, part of a $33 billion package of bills that the Senate passed Saturday by an 89-to-10 vote. In addition to extending the payroll tax cut for millions of American workers, the legislation also extends unemployment benefits and avoid cuts in payments to doctors who accept Medicare. The measure would be effective through February.
But in an interview with NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday, Mr. Boehner said the two-month extension, would be “just kicking the can down the road.”
“It’s time to just stop, do our work, resolve the differences, and extend this for one year,” Mr. Boehner said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “How can you have tax policy for two months?”
He said that Republicans want to extend the payroll cut for a year but that it would have to be financed with cuts in the existing budget. When Congressional aides announced the deal on Friday, they said the items it contained were fully paid for.
Senate Democrats criticized Mr. Boehner’s stance on the payroll tax cut, saying he was renouncing the fact that the package had been negotiated last week by House and Senate leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said that Mr. Boehner had asked him and the minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, to work out a compromise on the tax cut and that it had been agreed to by both political parties.
“Neither side got everything they wanted, but we forged a middle ground that passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan majority,” Mr. Reid said in a statement. “If Speaker Boehner refuses to vote on the bipartisan compromise that passed the Senate with 89 votes, Republicans will be forcing a thousand-dollar tax increase on middle class families on January 1st.”
Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Mr. Boehner’s comments called into question his ability to lead.
“This is a test of whether the House Republicans are fit to govern, and it is a make-or-break moment for John Boehner’s speakership,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Mr. Boehner’s remarks on “Meet the Press” came less than 24 hours after a conference call in which he tried to sell the package of bill to his rank and file, pointing to its provision that would speed Republican-supported construction of an oil pipeline, known as Keystone XL, from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
But many Republicans lawmakers were not buying what their leader was urging them to do, often because they object to the cost of the tax cut extension.
Among them was the House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, who said in a statement Sunday that on Monday, “the House will either amend the Senate bill so that it is responsible and in line with the needs of hard working taxpayers and middle class families, or pass a motion move to conference to accomplish the same. “
Mr. Cantor said the House opposed the Senate bill “because — to put it simply — we owe the middle class, employers and doctors better than a two-month extension.”
The Senate bill would reduce the deficit by nearly $3 billion, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
President Obama acknowledged Saturday that a two-month extension would mean Democrats and Republicans could be fighting the same fight again in February. In remarks before the White House press corps, the president said that next year’s vote should be a “formality,” and that he expected that Congress would accomplish his goal of a one-year extension “with as little drama as possible when they come back next month.”
Any thought that Congress will agree on a yearlong tax-cut extension or on the other provisions is extremely optimistic, given that its work will overlap with Mr. Obama’s State of the Union speech, the heat of the Republican primaries and a presidential campaign hitting full stride.