The congressional fight over the payroll tax cut continued Thursday morning when Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), serving as Speaker pro tempore, adjourned a House session while representatives Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) requested a floor vote on the Senate bill that provides a two-month extension.
“Mr. Speaker," Hoyer said, "I would like to ask for unanimous consent that we bring up the bill to extend the tax cut to 160 million Americans, as you walk off the floor Mr. Speaker, you’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class tax payers, the unemployed, and very frankly as well from those who will be seeking medical assistance from their doctors — 48 million senior citizens.”
Fitzpatrick oversaw the morning session in place of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has refused to bring the bill to the floor for an up-and-down vote, instead demanding that negotiations continue for a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut.
The Senate began negotiating last week over the bill to extend the payroll tax cut, jobless benefits and delay scheduled pay cuts to Medicare physicians. The $33 billion bill passed the Senate with a 89-10 bipartisan vote on Saturday, with the Senate then adjourning for the year. The deal also included a concession by President Obama to make a decision within 60 days on the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that Republicans say could generate significant jobs, but environmental groups say extending the Canadian oil pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico could have disastrous consequences.
Leaders have told media outlets that the plan was to give more time to discuss longer extensions before the Jan. 1, 2012, deadline, when the tax cut would expire.
When the bill reached the House, however, the conservative caucus refused to support it. On Tuesday, a 229-193 vote, mostly along party lines, rejected the Senate compromise and called for a bipartisan House-Senate committee to form new legislation for the one-year extension. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rejected the committee proposal, as the White House also rejected Boehner's request that the President urge the Senate to return to session and create a new deal.
"We're here. We're ready to work," Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill. "We can resolve these differences ... and give the American people a real Christmas present."
The actions by the House has drawn criticism from many sources that normally support the GOP, including a scathing editorial by the Wall Street Journal, which said," GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest."
"This is a colossal fumble by the House Republicans," a senior Senate GOP aide told Politico.com, requesting anonymity to speak candidly about his own party. "Their inability to recognize a win is costing our party our long-held advantage on the key issue of tax relief. It’s time for Boehner and [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor to look these rookies in the eye and explain how the game is won or lost."