A bipartisan Senate approved a two-month extension of the current payroll tax cut on Saturday, but House Speaker John Boehner says the House won't go along. Instead, he wants the senate to send negotiators to find a compromise version on the earlier House bill that extends payroll tax rates at the current level for a full year, but does so with spending cuts instead of a tax on the wealthy, as Democrats preferred.
Boehner's opposition to bringing the compromise Senate bill to a vote in the House this week, despite its approval by a margin of 89-10 in the Senate, means that a deal is now in jeopardy to prevent the withholding tax from rising, along with a roster of other measures set to be enacted automatically at the beginning of the year.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Boehner made his Sunday talk show announcement a day after receiving "an earful of resistance from rank-and-file Republicans" on a conference call with other House members. They wanted something closer to the original House Republican bill, which would have been subject to a potential veto by President Barack Obama.
There had been, until Boehner's announcement, hope that a compromise would at least get all sides into the New Year without a tax increase none wants to trigger, or another prolonged partisan shouting match. From The Journal:
The bipartisan support for the Senate bill, which only 10 senators opposed, had raised hopes that the House would take up the bill as early as Monday.
Gene Sperling, director of the White House's National Economic Council, said earlier Sunday that while President Barack Obama wants a full-year extension, the best way to achieve that eventual goal would be to back the two-month compromise.
"What gives you confidence that the payroll-tax cut will be extended for a full year, and that 160 million Americans will get that tax cut next year when they and the economy need it, is the fact that there was a bipartisan compromise," Mr. Sperling said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Nation."
Others, like Sen. Chuck Schumer in The New York Times, are painting this moment as a showdown between Boehner and the Tea Party wing of his caucus — the ones refusing to take the deal that most Senate Republicans can live with — and not with the administration. Schumer spun away:
Senator Charles E. 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.”
But it didn't take long for Republicans to close ranks. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, by Sunday afternoon, was calling for negotiations between House and Senate on the payroll tax, Politico reported. One day earlier, he had backed the Senate bill that Boehner's caucus called unacceptable.
Both sides are "ratcheting up their spin machines to see who wins - and who takes the bigger political hit - if the payroll tax extension is not enacted," Politico said. "160 million Americans would get hit with a $1,000 tax increase starting on Jan. 1 if the extension is not passed."