On Saturday, the Senate passed a bill to extend the payroll tax holiday for two months, overcoming Republican opposition by including things favored by the GOP, like expediting consideration of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. With the extension, the Senate adjourned for the rest of year.
But it looks like the massive concessions Democrats made won’t be enough for House Republicans to allow the continuation of the tax holiday. Appearing on Meet the Press today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said he and his members oppose the Senate bill. While there are fewer than two weeks before the end of the year, when the current tax holiday expires, Boehner said he wants to resolve major issues between the House and Senate bills in a joint House-Senate conference:
BOEHNER: Well, it’s pretty clear that I, and our members, oppose the Senate bill. … How can you do tax policy for two months? So, we really do believe it’s time for the Senate to work with the House, to complete our business for the year. We’ve got two weeks to get this done. let’s do it the right way.
HOST: So you’re suggesting start over, make this a one year extension. Should the Senate start from scratch?
BOEHNER: No, what I’m suggesting is this. The House has passed its bill, the Senate has passed its bill. Under the Constitution, when we have these disagreements, there could be a formal conference between both chambers to resolve the differences.
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Of course, the danger with this route is that the House and Senate, controlled by two different parties, may not be able to come to an agreement before the tax cut expires. As Congress has prove time and again, it’s not the greatest at coming to bipartisan agreements on deadline, let alone over the holiday week. If that happens, almost all working Americans — 160 million people — will see their taxes go up next year.
Boehner appears to be catering to a conservative lawmakers in his caucus, who “voiced extreme opposition” to the Senate bill in a conference call this weekend. According to The Hill, Boehner “spoke approvingly of the deal as a win for the GOP,” but the rest of his leadership team, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), opposed it, along with most rank-and-file Republicans. If Boehner approved of the plan before the call, the dissent clearly seems to have influenced him as he said he personally opposes the Senate bill today.
It’s rather remarkable that Republicans would even threaten to kill the payroll tax holiday, as their primary domestic policy agenda is cutting taxes. If the holiday expires, the middle-class will be especially hard hit, as the cut disproportionately helped them.