A handful of Republican freshmen are calling for the House to approve the two-month payroll tax package passed by the Senate last week, a move that further ups the pressure on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders as the tax stalemate threatens to stretch through the holidays.
Reps. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) argued Thursday afternoon that a one-year tax package is preferable but that the House should pass the Senate’s two-month deal so as to ensure that workers’ payroll taxes do not go up and unemployment benefits do not expire on New Year’s Day.
Duffy said in a statement that GOP leaders should “immediately bring up the Senate’s two-month extension for an up-or-down vote.”
“Of course, I still believe middle class families would be better served by the certainty of a one-year payroll tax holiday, but this isn’t about proving a point,” he said. “This is about preventing hardworking Wisconsin families from paying an extra $40 a week for the dysfunction in Washington DC.”
In a letter to Boehner, Crawford wrote that lawmakers “are now in a position that requires all options to be on the table, that requires Republicans to not only demand a willingness to compromise, but to offer it as well.”
“More often than not an ‘all or nothing’ attitude produces nothing,” he wrote. “An ‘all or nothing’ attitude is not what my constituents need now. My constituents need a Congress that is willing to put all options on the table, even those that are not yearlong plans, to avoid higher taxes on more than 160 million Americans.”
Crawford added that his constituents are “angry and they don’t understand why Congress cannot sit down, hammer out our differences, and come up with a solution we can all support.”
The move by Crawford in particular could be significant, as the Arkansas Republican has become a leader among the House GOP freshmen and earlier this year led several news conferences pressuring the Senate to act on a House-passed government funding bill.
Another House Republican freshman, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), on Wednesday said that while he prefers a one-year extension, he “certainly would have voted for the Senate-passed bill if given the opportunity.” He called on both the House and the Senate to “return to Washington to resolve this matter without delay.”
While they are only three members of the GOP freshman class, the statements by Hanna, Crawford and Duffy could prove significant in a debate that has seen House Republicans go swiftly from holding the upper hand to going it alone against the Senate and the White House, both of which back a bipartisan two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.
Hours after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a statement outlining a way out of the stalemate, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) said that he, too, supported the House passing an extension that would pave the way for a longer-term deal down the line.
“I said when voting for the short-term tax package that I didn’t agree with every provision, but the Senate’s two-month extension was the reasonable thing to do for taxpayers, Medicare beneficiaries, the long-term unemployed and our economy -- because it advanced the Keystone pipeline,” Johanns said in a statement. “Leader McConnell was right to ask Senator Reid to appoint conferees, and the House should pass an extension while we continue searching for a resolution.”
But House GOP leaders and conferees appeared to dig in their heels Thursday afternoon. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) told reporters after a meeting in Boehner’s office that House Republicans still preferred a conference committee to work out a one-year deal before the holidays.