Washington, Dec. 21 (BNA) United States President, barack Obama blamed the Republicans for rejecting the two-month extension of both tax cut of up to $40 a week for workers and unemployment benefits for millions of jobless. The president said that time was running out, after the White House voted 229-193 to request negotiations with the Senate on renewing the payroll tax cuts for a year.
House Speaker John Boehner said that Obama sought his help and added that he expected the president to help out. His words were cheered by Republican lawmakers who have pushed him and the rest of the leadership to pursue a more confrontational strategy. Democrats and the White House already seen in a contentious year of divided government. The rejection is expected to result in payroll taxes moving north on January 1 for 160 million workers and end of long-term unemployment benefits for millions of jobless victims of the worst recession since the 1930s.
The standoff is expected to entangle the paperwork for doctors treating Medicare patients in the early days of the new year. The documents are not expected to be processed until January 18, giving lawmakers more time to avert a 27 per cent cut in fees threatened for News Year’s day.
The standoff was sowing confusion in business, running out of days to adapt to any new payroll tax regimen. Even the Senate’s proposed two-month extension was creating headaches because it ontained a two-tiered system geared to ensuring that higher-income earners paid a higher rate on some of their wages, according to a trade group.
Democrats pounced on Republicans for rejecting the Senate bill, emboldened by polls finding Obama’s approval rising and that of the congressional Republicans fading. They noted that several lawmakers whom Boehner appointed to negotiate a compromise had recently criticised an extension of payroll tax cuts. Democrats also introduced legislation in the House to ratify the two-month bill that passed the Senate. In his appearance before White House reporters, Obama said Republicans would be to blame for the consequences of a standoff. “Right now, the recovery is fragile, but it is moving in the right direction,” he said. “Our failure to do this could have effects not just on families but on the economy as a whole.” Obama requested the extension of the payroll tax and unemployment benefits in the fall as part of his jobs program. As recently as Friday, it appeared a compromise was in sight on the legislation.
After efforts to agree on a yearlong extension sputtered, Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed on the two-month renewal, with the bill’s estimated $35 billion cost to be covered by an increased fee on mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That assured deficits wouldn’t rise, a key Republican objective. Republicans also prevailed on their demand to require the president to decide within 60 days the fate of a proposed Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that promises thousands of construction jobs. The president’s political supporters are divided on the Keystone XL project, with environmentalists generally opposing it and blue collar unions in favor, and Obama had hoped to avoid making a decision until after the 2012 elections. The measure quickly cleared the Senate on a vote of 89-10, with 39 of 46 Republicans in favor. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader, said he was optimistic the House would go along. On a telephone conference call on Saturday, numerous GOP lawmakers told Boehner and the leadership they opposed the Senate-passed measure. While House Republicans quickly developed their plan — reject the Senate bill and seek negotiations on a compromise — there were undercurrents of dissent. Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, told fellow lawmakers at a closed-door meeting on Monday night that he had been inaccurately quoted in an email from an unidentified GOP aide that described the contents of a private conference call, making it appear that the leadership itself was divided. Two lawmakers said details from the email found their way into print quickly after the conference call. “It implied the speaker (Boehner) was in one place and the rest of leadership in another,” Cole said in an interview Tuesday. “That wasn’t the conversation.”
Other Republicans said Boehner bristled in Monday night’s meeting when asked whether he had given his blessing to the 60-day Senate compromise, replying that he had not and challenging one questioner to get his facts correct. They spoke on condition of anonymity, noting the events had occurred behind closed doors. At the end of their first year in office, there was no doubt about the ability of dozens of first-term Republicans to flex their muscle. As late as Monday night, several officials said, Cantor outlined a plan for the House to vote down the Senate bill, then vote separately to seek negotiations with the Senate. Several Republicans objected, noting that would allow House Democrats an opportunity to go on record in favor of a payroll tax cut extension. The plan was changed, and in proceedings during the day, there was no opportunity for a straightforward yes-or-no vote on the Senate-passed bill that Democrats and the White House favor.