Payroll Tax Cut, ‘Doc Fix’ Stalled In Congressional Stalemate
House Republicans rejected the deal — approved by the Senate before it adjourned for the holidays — to extend the payroll tax cut. This event is the latest in a chain of ongoing congressional sagas marked by questions of what the government should fund and how it pay for it.
Los Angeles Times: With Payroll Tax Cut Unresolved, Congress Packs Up
After weeks of bitter partisan wrangling, the Capitol emptied for the holidays with no sign of negotiation toward a compromise that would save an expiring tax break. As of Jan. 1, the payroll tax cut that has been in place all year is scheduled to return to 6.2 percent from its current 4.2 percent, meaning that biweekly paychecks on average will be $40 smaller. Long-term unemployment benefits for some 3 million people also are poised to expire, and doctors face an estimated 20 percent cut in Medicare payments (Mascaro and Hennessey,12/20).
The Associated Press: Holiday Showdown Over Payroll Tax Tests Obama, GOP
Stuck in a stalemate, President Barack Obama and his Republican rivals are slugging it out in Washington rather than reaching for a holiday season accord to prevent payroll taxes from going up on 160 million workers. The tax increases, as well as cuts to Medicare doctors' fees and a lapse in jobless benefits, are due Jan. 1. They are looming even though Democrats and Republicans agree that they shouldn't happen. Instead of stopping them, the factions have painted themselves into a corner (Taylor, 12/21).
The New York Times: Republicans In House Reject Deal Extending Payroll Tax Cut
If no resolution can be found, House Republicans … now risk the odd political development of being accused of being the impediment to a tax cut. … The impasse deepened Tuesday with a spirited debate over the bill to reject the Senate plan and call for new negotiations, which passed 229 to 193. … Not a single Democrat joined the House Republicans in rejecting the Senate bill on Tuesday — a rare occurrence. An hour after that vote, Mr. Obama swept unannounced into his press secretary's daily briefing with White House reporters. He called the Senate measure — which would maintain a two-month extension of a payroll tax holiday for 160 million workers, continue unemployment benefits for millions more and maintain Medicare reimbursement fees for doctors — "the only viable way to prevent a tax hike, on Jan. 1" (Steinhauer, 12/20).
The Washington Post: Congress Leaves Town With An Uneasy Stalemate And Looming Payroll Tax Hike
The House voted on Tuesday to reject a Senate compromise that would have extended a federal payroll tax holiday for two months, continued unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and averted a cut in the reimbursement rate for doctors who treat Medicare patients. At its heart, the fight over the tax cut is only the latest incarnation of the same ideological clash that has afflicted Congress for the past year, over what the government should fund and how it should be paid for (Helderman and Kane, 12/20).
The Wall Street Journal: Standoff Sets In As House Rejects Tax Bill
House Republicans dug in for a year-end standoff Tuesday, scuttling a temporary extension to a payroll-tax break that President Barack Obama called the "only viable way" to prevent a New Year's tax increase. …The GOP-controlled House, upending a deal that appeared set just days earlier, also demanded that Senate leaders return to Washington and negotiate a longer extension of the tax break as well as expiring benefits for the long-term unemployed and Medicare payments to doctors (Hook and Meckler, 12/21).
USA Today: House Rejects 2-Month Extension Of Payroll Tax Cut
Before the Senate adjourned, senators overwhelmingly approved a short-term patch with the intention of finding a longer term solution early next year, but House GOP leaders — at the strong urging of their rank-and-file — rejected the patch as bad economic policy. … If the current benefits expire, the impact will be immediate. The payroll tax rate will rise from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent affecting 160 million Americans, and about 2.2 million Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits will see their checks stop by mid-February. Additionally, the Senate bill includes another short-term patch to prevent a Medicare payment drop to doctors who treat seniors (Davis, 12/20).
Reuters: In Tax Cut Debate, A Focus On Boehner's Leadership
In Congress' tense drama over how to extend payroll tax cuts for 160 million Americans, it may be the most intriguing subplot: whether Republican House Speaker John Boehner is losing his grip on members of his own party. Boehner and many Republicans scoff at the idea. But the House's rejection on Tuesday of a bipartisan Senate plan to extend the tax cuts for two months has raised questions about Boehner's efforts to lead compromise-resistant House Republicans who have helped ratchet up the tension in Congress (Cowan and Ferraro, 12/20).
The Associated Press: Tax Cut Fight Ends Ugly Year For Boehner
John Boehner vowed early on that as speaker, he would let the House "work its will." At the end of his first year in charge of the fractious Republican-controlled chamber, it's clear he has little choice. An uncompromising band of conservatives, led by GOP freshmen to whom Boehner owes his speakership, has repeatedly forced him to back away from deals with President Barack Obama, Democrats and, this week, even one struck by Senate Republicans. Gridlock, again and again, has defined Congress in the Boehner era even as Americans fume and the economy continues to wobble (Kellman, 12/20).