Negotiations Stalled on House-Senate Package That Would Avert Medicare Pay Cuts for Doctors
The Republican plan to pay for the package, which includes extending a payroll tax cut, calls for a premium increase for upper-income Medicare patients that has been rejected by Democrats. Democrats have offered to trim unemployment benefits by six weeks.
The New York Times: Pessimism High, Republicans Warn Of Possible Expiration Of Payroll Tax Cuts
Congressional Republicans said Thursday that negotiations over extending a payroll tax cut were going so poorly that it was possible the tax break — along with added unemployment benefits — could expire at the end of the month. ... The committee was formed last year after the two parties were unable to agree on how to pay for a full-year extension of the benefits, as well as a measure to prevent a cut in fees for doctors who accept Medicare (Steinhauer, 2/10).
Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Republicans Push To Wrap Up Payroll Tax Talks
Republicans expressed frustration on Thursday at the slow pace of negotiations over extending a tax break for workers that expires at the end of the month, accusing President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats of blocking agreement. ... The tax cut package also includes extending jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and the cost of averting a 27 percent pay cut for doctors treating elderly Medicare patients. Election-year politics have complicated the search for a deal on how to pay for the tax cut package. The Republican plan calls for a premium increase for upper-income Medicare patients that has been rejected by Democrats, who are likely to use protecting Medicare as a campaign issue (Smith, 2/9).
Bloomberg: Payroll Deadline Nears As Democrats Focus On Jobless Benefits
Congressional Democrats made their first proposal on one of the more contentious elements of the payroll tax cut package with an offer to trim maximum U.S. unemployment benefits by six weeks. ... Lawmakers are negotiating the benefits as part of a plan that would continue a payroll-tax cut for workers and prevent a drop in Medicare reimbursements to doctors. The proposal was the most substantial one offered by Democrats since a House-Senate negotiating panel began meeting Jan. 24. Republicans said the offer was inadequate (Sloan and Rowley, 2/10).
Associated Press: Democrats Propose 6-Week Cut In Jobless Benefits
House-Senate negotiations on extending jobless benefits and a two percentage point cut in the payroll tax remained stalled Thursday, despite a proposal in which Democrats urged a modest six-week cut in the maximum time unemployed workers can receive jobless benefits. The Democratic proposal would allow unemployed people to receive a maximum 93 weeks of benefits in states with the highest jobless rates, rather than the 99 weeks permitted now. Republicans want to cut 20 weeks from the maximum benefit, though as a practical matter, the benefit would drop to 59 weeks under their plan because falling unemployment rates mean enrollees would lose automatically 20 weeks under program eligibility rules (Taylor, 2/9).