Payroll Tax Cut Extension And ‘Doc Fix’ Stall In House
What appeared to be a "sure deal" is now coming undone as House Republicans are balking at the Senate's short-term approach.
The New York Times: Extension Of Tax Cut Stalls In House As GOP Objects
The once-seemingly sure deal, which allowed the Senate to recess for the year, was for a $33 billion package of bills to keep the Social Security tax paid by most workers at 4.2 percent rather than 6.2 percent, extend unemployment benefits for those already receiving them, and avoid reductions in Medicare payments to doctors. The measure would be effective through February (Steinhauer, 12/18).
The Washington Post: Boehner: House Republicans Oppose Senate Payroll Tax Cut Deal
Boehner's comments came a day after the Senate agreed to a two-month extension in a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits that will expire Jan. 1, top priorities for President Obama and congressional Democrats. The White House and congressional Democrats responded that if the House does not proceed on the compromise that overwhelmingly passed the Senate, Republicans will be to blame (Sonmez and Helderman, 12/18).
Los Angeles Times: Boehner Rejects Tax Cut Deal
The Republican-controlled House was expected to vote down the Senate's two-month extension of the tax break Monday in a largely symbolic demonstration that the stopgap deal is unacceptable. The tax break expires Dec. 31. … Democrats think they have the political advantage in highlighting the GOP's obstruction of the tax package, which also extends long-term unemployment benefits and ensures that doctors who treat Medicare patients do not see their pay cut by more than 20 percent in 2012. Their House campaign arm will begin targeting politically vulnerable GOP lawmakers Monday. Returning to the issue in two months would give Democrats another chance to reinforce that message (Mascaro and Hennessey, 12/18).
The Wall Street Journal: House Balks At Payroll Tax Deal
Both sides want to extend a program that provides for longer unemployment benefits while the economy remains weak. Republicans, however, favor eventually reducing the maximum benefits for workers to 59 weeks from 99 weeks. Both sides also agree that a Medicare payment formula must be adjusted so doctors don't see a drop in payments next year (Bendavid and Meckler, 12/19).
Bloomberg: Boehner Says House Republicans Want to Extend Payroll-Tax Cut for One Year
House Speaker John Boehner said he and fellow House Republicans oppose Senate legislation to extend through February a payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits and will push to continue the measures through 2012. ... Members were upset that the Senate measure made no changes to the unemployment insurance program and urged leaders to "really push" to make sure to extend the Medicare reimbursement rate for doctors for a year, [Georgia Representative Jack Kingston] said. The Senate measure would avert a 27 percent drop in Medicare reimbursements for just two months (Litvan and Rowley, 12/18).
Politico Pro: Medicare Fight Helped Sink Long-Term Deal
A long-term payroll tax deal collapsed in part because Senate Republicans suggested expanding Medicare means testing to help pay for the yearlong payroll tax relief bill and a Sustainable Growth Rate cut patch, an idea Democrats rejected, lawmakers and aides said Saturday. "My Republican colleagues wouldn't agree to long-term tax relief unless Democrats agreed to cut Medicare benefits for seniors," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement late Friday evening after a yearlong package fell apart and was replaced by a two-month extension of the payroll tax relief and a SGR patch (Haberkorn, 12/17).
CNN Money: Payroll Tax: Congress On Vexing Path
Once again, Congress is going down to the wire on a "must-pass" bill that lawmakers have been debating for months. The centerpiece of this one — the soon-to-expire payroll tax cut — affects more than 160 million people. …"Doc fix" extended: The bill would prevent a scheduled 27 percent cut in payments to Medicare physicians for the first two months of next year. ... The American Medical Association has noted that even with the regular intervention by Congress, Medicare payments lag 20 percent behind the cost of caring for seniors. Many in Congress would like to pass a permanent doc fix, but the biggest stumbling block to doing so is figuring how to pay for the estimated $300 billion cost over the first decade. Estimated cost: $3.6 billion (Sahadi, 12/19).