Congress Struggles To Tackle Doc Fix, Payroll Tax Cut Extension
Reports from Capitol Hill indicate that negotiations are marked by key policy differences.
The Washington Post: It’s Déjà Vu As Congress Tackles Payroll Tax Cut Extension Again
It's Groundhog Day in Congress, where lawmakers appear to have glimpsed their shadows and are entering a newly intense period of negotiations over whether to extend the payroll tax cut that is shaping up to be remarkably similar to a bruising December fight over the same issue. On Tuesday, there was a meeting of the 20 lawmakers appointed by the House and Senate to broker a bipartisan a deal to extend the tax holiday through the end of the year. They are also tasked with finding a way to extend unemployment benefits and avert scheduled cuts in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients through this year (Helderman, 2/7).
The New York Times: Talks Stall On How To Pay For Extending Payroll Tax Cut
Democratic negotiators rejected $70 billion worth of spending cuts the House wanted to use to offset the cost of the package, including a … measure to raise Medicare premiums on some people and a proposal that would allow the government to claw back some subsidies for the purchase of health insurance under the new health care law (Steinhauer and Weisman, 2/7).
The Associated Press: House-Senate Payroll Tax Cut Talks Adrift On Capitol Hill
Lawmakers lobbed charges back and forth over whether it was fair for three million federal civilian workers to have their pay frozen for a third consecutive year to help pay for the tax cut and whether seniors with income exceeding $80,000 a year should pay more for their Medicare coverage (Taylor, 2/7).
The Wall Street Journal: Talks Bog Down On Extending Payroll-Tax Cut
Congress's deadline is tighter than it appears because lawmakers begin a weeklong recess Feb. 20. After that, they will have only a few days until the expiration of the popular tax cut. … The package being debated also could extend enhanced unemployment benefits ... [and] would adjust the Medicare-payment system to avoid a drop in doctors' fees (Bendavid, 2/8).
Reuters: US Payroll Tax Talks Mired In Election-Year Politics
One Republican negotiator, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, said that the harsh rhetoric of both Democratic and Republican leaders, who accuse one another of standing in the way of a deal, was not helpful (Cowan and Smith, 2/7).
Related, earlier coverage from KHN: FAQ: The 'Doc Fix' Dilemma (1/19)
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The Washington Post: Frustrated GOP Freshmen Target Gimmicks That Make It Hard To Cut The Budget
This year, congressional Republicans expect few opportunities to stage another spending showdown. So Griffin (Ark.) and other frustrated GOP freshmen are focusing on a new goal: rewriting congressional budget rules to prevent spending from rising in the first place. ... Budget caps were adopted during last year’s fight over the federal debt limit, and agency spending is actually projected to fall over the next decade ... Agency spending would not return to last year's levels until 2021. Spending on giant federal health and retirement programs, however, would keep rising, as would interest payments on the growing national debt (Montgomery, 2/7).