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Posted at 10:07 AM ET, 12/04/2011

Harry Reid to introduce payroll tax cut compromise Monday, Conrad says


Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). (Alex Brandon - Associated Press)

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) plans to introduce a compromise measure Monday to extend the payroll tax cut, according to a key Senate Democrat.

“Majority Leader Reid called me yesterday and said he will propose tomorrow a compromise plan to extend the payroll tax cut,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He will offer it at that point — I don’t think it’s probably in my purview to announce his plan — but he indicated to me it will be paid for. It will be paid for in a serious way.”

Senate Republicans took issue with Democrats’ characterization of their latest measure as a “compromise” and argued that no Republicans were consulted on the legislation. A Reid spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

News of the latest measure comes three days after the Senate held votes on competing versions of legislation to extend the one-year tax holiday. Both measures failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to progress, and a majority of Senate Republicans voted against their own party’s proposal – a sign that GOP leaders face a tall task in rounding up support for a tax cut to which many rank-and-file members are opposed.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who was among the 26 Senate Republicans voting “no” last week on the GOP plan, told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that he is opposed to paying for a one-year tax cut through measures that would span the next decade.

“I don’t think I can speak for all the GOP,” Coburn said. “The principle that you would in fact create a tax cut and then say you’re going to pay for it over 10 years is exactly why we’re bankrupt as a nation.”

Coburn criticized both of last week’s Senate votes as political posturing but acknowledged that some version of the payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits must pass Congress before the year is out.

“Both votes on Thursday didn’t matter at all because no tax item like this can start in the Senate. . . . All we were doing was playing a charade, and Americans saw right through it,” Coburn said.

Both Coburn and Conrad are members of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators who earlier this year worked toward a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan; the two also served on last year’s bipartisan Simpson-Bowles debt commission.

In the weeks after the debt supercommittee’s failure, some lawmakers have called for a vote on the Simpson-Bowles plan as a way of continuing to move forward on the debt debate. Both senators said Sunday that they believe it’s possible for a broader debt-reduction effort to be revived in Congress. Coburn added that he thought the supercommittee in some ways was designed to fall short in that effort.

“I think some of the supercommittee was designed to fail from the start simply because it was so polarized from the leadership on both sides,” Coburn said.

Coburn also was asked about former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who has surged to the lead in some recent GOP presidential primary polls and stands to benefit from former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain’s (R) exit from the race.

Coburn, who was first elected to the House during the 1994 Republican Revolution and frequently battled with Gingrich, said that he would have difficulty supporting Gingrich for president.

“There’s a lot of candidates out there,” Coburn said. “I’m not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich’s, having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership.”

Asked to elaborate further, Coburn said he found Gingrich’s leadership “lacking” as speaker.

“Well, the thing is, there’s all kinds of leaders — leaders that instill confidence, leaders that are somewhat abrupt and brisk, leaders that have one standard for the people that they’re leading and a different standard for themselves,” Coburn said. “I just found his leadership lacking, and I’m not going to go into greater detail on that. And I think if you were to poll the group of people who came into Congress in 1994 — which he did a wonderful job of organizing that; he’s brilliant; he has lots of positives — but still I will have difficulty supporting him as president of the United States.”

By  |  10:07 AM ET, 12/04/2011

 
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