The way forward for Congress on a series of high-priority measures remained in flux on Friday, following the Senate’s rejection of two competing proposals to extend a one-year payroll tax cut.
Other issues still unresolved include an extension of unemployment insurance and the “doc fix,” which affects the rate of reimbursement for doctors who see Medicare patients.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters at a news conference on jobs Friday that lawmakers must extend the payroll tax cut before returning home for the holidays, and leaders of both parties have said that the extension is a must-pass measure.
But just how to pay for that measure remains a major sticking point between the parties, compounded by the fact that a majority of Senate Republicans voted against their party’s own proposal late Thursday night.
At a separate news conference Friday morning, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that House GOP leaders were planning on discussing their payroll-tax proposal with rank-and-file lawmakers at a closed-door conference meeting.
“We’re going to have that conversation with our members as soon as leave here, and you’ll know more about it soon,” he said as he headed into the meeting.
Senate Democrats have sought to put Republicans on the spot by coupling the payroll tax cut extension with a provision that would impose a surtax on the very wealthy, arguing that GOP lawmakers favor cutting taxes for the wealthy but not for the middle class.
Boehner on Friday defended Republicans’ position on taxes, arguing that “the other side can come out with all the rhetoric they want to come out with, but the facts are the facts.”
“Listen, I’ve got 11 brothers and sisters on every rung of the economic ladder, right?” he said. “My dad owned a bar. I know what’s going on out in America. And the fact is, is that Republicans are trying to do everything we can to allow American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn, to try to get this government off the backs of employers so they can begin to hire people.”
Boehner declined to speculate on whether Thursday’s Senate vote might make things more difficult in the House. Asked whether he expected to see similar opposition among members of the House Republican conference, he responded, “I would hope not.”