Payroll Tax Cut Rejected by House Republicans

John Boehner

In an interview on “Meet The Press” on NBC, Speaker John A. Boehner said his members broadly opposed the two-month extension that passed the Senate 89 to 10, believing that it 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. “How can you have tax policy for two months?”

The surprising setback threatened the holiday plans of lawmakers and President Obama, deeply embarrassed Republican leaders in both chambers and raised the specter of a year-end tax increase that economists have warned could set back the already fragile economic recovery.

The House is scheduled to take up the Senate bill — passed in a rare Saturday session — when members return to Capitol Hill on Monday night. House leaders expect the bill to fail and their members to then consider and perhaps vote on an amended version that same night.

Representative Tom Reed, a freshman Republican from upstate New York, said Monday: “I am adamantly opposed to a short-term two-month extension bill. Enough is enough. If that’s what the Senate believes is leadership, then I believe the Senate is a complete failure.

“Two months of policy for doctors, American workers and people suffering on unemployment is just plain ridiculous,” Mr. Reed said. “We should do at least a year’s extension, if not further.”

Contrary to suggestions by some Democrats, Mr. Reed said, “There was no representation from the speaker that he would be able to get support for a two-month deal” in the House.  

“We want to do long-term policy, not short-term politics,” Mr. Reed said. “The American people deserve more than short-term Band-Aids.” 

Democrats, led by Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, reacted angrily to the turn of events in the House.

“When we met last week, Speaker Boehner requested that Senator McConnell and I work out a compromise,” Mr. Reid said, referring to the minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “Neither side got everything they wanted, but we forged a middle ground that passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan majority.”

Although Mr. McConnell, like scores of his colleagues, voted for the Senate-brokered bill, he retreated from the measure on Sunday, throwing his support behind Mr. Boehner’s idea to come up with a yearlong extension, which was the original goal of Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats.

“The House and the president both want a full-year extension,” Don Stewart, a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, said in an e-mail to reporters. “The best way to resolve the difference between the two-month extension and the full-year bill, and provide certainty for job creators, employees and the long-term unemployed, is through regular order, as the speaker suggested.”

The once-seemingly sure deal, which allowed the Senate to recess for the year, was for a $33 billion package of bills to keep the Social Security tax paid by most workers at 4.2 percent rather than 6.2 percent, extend unemployment benefits for those already receiving them, and avoid reductions in Medicare payments to doctors. The measure would be effective through February.

But the deal slid off the rails abruptly on Saturday, just hours after the Senate vote, when House Republicans balked after being briefed about the terms by their leaders. Even a sweetener provision to speed the decision process for construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast could not mollify them. Mr. Boehner had called the provision a “victory.”

So in a matter of hours, a hastily written agreement between Senate leaders — one Mr. McConnell said Saturday on the Senate floor was “not designed to fail but designed to pass” — gave way to chaos..

Helene Cooper contributed reporting.

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