McConnell: Extend tax cut short-term and long-term

December 22, 2011 - 12:33 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate's top Republican on Thursday urged the GOP-led House to pass a short-term renewal of payroll tax cuts and break an impasse that threatens 160 million workers with a 2 percentage point tax increase on Jan. 1.

The move by Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is aimed at breaking an impasse between House Republicans and Democrats controlling the Senate. He urged House Republicans to pass a new short-term extension while calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to appoint negotiators on the separate House measure that would bring a year-long renewal of the payroll tax and jobless benefits.

McConnell's move was likely to be embraced by Democrats but received a tepid reaction for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"We believe, as Senator McConnell suggested, the two chambers should work to reconcile the two bills so that we can provide a full year of payroll tax relief — and do it before year's end," said Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith.

But House GOP negotiator Dave Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, suggested he would be open to a three-month extension. He floated the idea in an appearance on CNBC.

In a Thursday morning phone call, Boehner urged President Barack Obama to send administration officials to the Capitol to negotiate an agreement on the longer-term measure demanded by Republicans.

The conflict arose after the Senate, on a bipartisan vote, passed legislation last week to extend for two months the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits, as well as a "fix" for Medicare payment rates. The House had just days before passed a full-year extension that included a series of conservative policy prescriptions.

McConnell was a driving force behind the Senate measure and had been virtually silent in the political firestorm that has erupted since, knocking tea party House Republicans on their heels.

Thirty-nine of McConnell's Senate Republicans helped the Senate pass the two-month extension last week. Boehner's Republicans, who want a yearlong extension, were outraged and have refused to go along.