House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday that he and other House Republicans are opposed to the two-month payroll tax cut deal that overwhelmingly passed the Senate on Saturday, casting uncertainty on the future of a measure that leaders of both parties have said must pass before the end of the year.
In an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Boehner said that the short-term package, which was negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), should be re-worked by a conference committee in order to reach a longer deal that is acceptable to House Republicans.
“Well, it’s pretty clear that I and our members oppose the Senate bill,” Boehner said. “It’s only for two months. You know, the president said we shouldn’t go on vacation until we get our work done. And frankly, House Republicans agree.”
The House earlier this month passed a measure that would couple a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut with a provision that would force the White House to make a speedy decision on whether to grant a permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
But in late-night negotiations Friday, Reid and McConnell struck a deal that would include the Keystone provision but would only extend the payroll tax cut holiday for two months – a package to which rank-and-file House Republicans as well as some GOP leaders voiced strong opposition during a conference call Saturday afternoon, contending that the measure was too short and would give Democrats the political upper hand early next year.
Boehner on Sunday called the House-passed measure a “reasonable, responsible bill” and contended that the two-month deal would bring uncertainty to the economy.
“If you talk to employers, they talk about the uncertainty,” he said. “How can you do tax policy for two months? So, we really do believe it’s time for the Senate to work with the House, to complete our business for the year. We’ve got two weeks to get this done. Let’s do it the right way.”
Asked whether House Republicans may attempt to totally rework the bill when they return to Washington on Monday, Boehner said that the measure should be negotiated by a bipartisan, bicameral conference committee just as the nearly $1 trillion government funding measure that passed both chambers late last week was.
“Under the Constitution, when we have these disagreements, there could be a formal conference between the House and Senate to resolve our differences,” he said. “But our members really do believe, we have to do our work. ... And earlier this week, both the House and Senate, in a bipartisan, bicameral way, funded our government through September 30. We did it in a regular process, regular order, and what the regular order here is a formal conference between the House and Senate.”
Complicating matters is the fact that the Senate on Saturday adjourned for the year – and even though the chamber will be holding brief “pro forma” sessions every few days for the next two weeks, most lawmakers have departed Washington.
Boehner declined to say whether there might be a resolution to the payroll tax debate before Christmas.
“I don’t know,” he said. “All I know is that it’s time to do this the right way. ... It’s time to do the right thing for the American people. No kicking the can down the road.”