Obama Calls Boehner To Press Him For Payroll Tax Cut Extension

Barack Obama pressed Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to pass a two-month extension and return to talks on a year-long deal in the New Year.

Obama urged Boehner to achieve compromise on the payroll tax cut. Photo: oregonianphoto/Flickr

According to White House spokesman Jay Carney, President Barack Obama called Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to tell about his willingness to cooperate with Congress ” to achieve a successful bipartisan compromise” on the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans.

The talks about an extension of the tax cut are still deadlocked, after the Republican-led House on Tuesday refused to accept a Senate-passed version of the bill, which got the support of 89 votes but seven Republicans.

In fact, in case payroll tax cut is not extended by the end of the December, about 160 million Americans would have their payroll tax reverted to 6.2 percent from the 4.2 percent lowered a year ago. Moreover, failure would cause cuts to Medicare doctors’ fees and a lapse in jobless benefits.

Both parties are to extend the cut, but Democrats and Republicans offer different ways of paying for it, as well as unrelated measures included in the debate, such as a provision relating to a transcontinental oil pipeline. The Senate has passed a two-month extension aiming to give Congress additional time to negotiate the sticking points.

The House hasn’t voted for the Senate bill but suggested forming a “conference committee” – a small group of lawmakers from both the Senate and the House to work out the two chambers’ differences. Republicans urged Congress to forgo the two-month extension and pass a full, one-year extension as soon as possible.

Boehner wrote in a USA Today op-ed published today, “We hope the president, who has repeatedly said he won’t go on vacation until this matter is resolved, will urge Senate Democrats to change their minds. He should call on them to appoint negotiators so we can extend payroll tax relief for a full year and help create jobs.”

However, having phoned today, Barack Obama did just the opposite, forcing Boehner to change his mind. “We’re here. We’re ready to work,” Boehner said. “We can resolve these differences … and give the American people a real Christmas present.”

Boehner also asked Mr. Obama to support the conference committee. “The speaker told the president that his conference was elected to change the way Washington does business and that we should not waste the next ten days simply because it is an inconvenient time of year,” the Boehner’s aide revealed. “He said that our differences are not so great that we cannot pass a full-year bill by December 31st.”

The aide continued: “He urged the President to call on Senator Reid to appoint negotiators so that we can produce a full-year bill by the end of the year that provides a tax cut of $1,000 rather than only $166. The Speaker told the President that his conference was elected to change the way Washington does business and that we should not waste the next ten days simply because it is an inconvenient time of year.”

On Tuesday briefing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked several times whether Obama planned to help Boehner out of his predicament.

“The president is doing everything he can to help the American people,” Carney responded. “The Speaker is very capable of helping himself by calling a vote on the Senate compromise, a compromise that received the support of 80 percent of the Republican senators and an even greater percentage of Democratic senators.”

As was previously found out, the president was to make an unannounced trip outside of the White House’s confines. Obama was suspected in planning to head to Capitol Hill for a direct confrontation with Republican leadership.

But the talks stopped after some reports claimed Obama was just going to Virginia to do some holiday shopping. After that he intended to go to Hawaii to meet up with the rest of his family, though when that will take place depends on a resolution of the payroll tax cut debate. [Via CBS News and Huff Post]

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