House Speaker John Boehner said he’s confident that Republicans and Democrats in Congress will agree to a payroll tax-cut extension supported by President Barack Obama.
“We are in a formal conference with the Senate, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to resolve this fairly quickly,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week” program yesterday.
A short-term extension of the payroll tax cut expires Feb. 29, and the president is seeking to have it extended until the end of 2012. Unless Congress acts, the 2 percentage point payroll tax-break for employees will lapse, as will emergency unemployment benefits.
The two parties disagree on how to pay for the plan and whether all the costs must be offset.
Congressional Republicans have blocked efforts over the past year to impose a surtax on income exceeding $1 million to pay for the extension. A House-Senate conference committee aimed at breaking the deadlock on the extension is scheduled to meet again Feb. 1.
President Obama, in his Jan. 24 State of the Union address, called on Congress to approve the tax cut, urging “no side issues. No drama.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program: “We’ll get it done. We’ll get it done by the end of February.”
“There’s a broad agreement on doing the payroll tax-holiday through the end of the year. Republicans and Democrats agree on that,” the senator said. “The problem is the paying for it.”
“It has yet to be negotiated,” McConnell said.
Boehner told ABC that a provision approving the Keystone XL pipeline will be attached to legislation that would expand oil and gas drilling if the pipeline isn’t approved first.
Last month, Republicans succeeded in adding language to the short-term payroll tax-cut extension agreement requiring Obama to decide on the pipeline within 60 days.
Obama rejected the permit on Jan. 18, saying the deadline didn’t leave enough time to consider alternatives to the original pipeline route, which went through the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region in Nebraska.
The lawmakers now are backing a bill that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the permit within 30 days, so long as it meets safety requirements.
TransCanada Corp., based in Calgary, is pushing for a $7 billion pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Asked whether the Republican-controlled House should coordinate its actions with the Democratic Senate before passing legislation that senators won’t approve, Boehner said that “we can’t control what the Senate does or doesn’t do.”
“It’s time for the Senate to do their job,” he said.
Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said the panel’s version of the U.S. fiscal year 2013 budget will be ready in March and will be based on the proposal from last year.
The committee will work off its 2012 budget proposal, Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The 2012 proposal passed by the House would have cut $6.2 trillion over the next decade from Medicare and several other federal programs including food stamps, farm subsidies and Pell college tuition grants. It called for repealing the Obama administration’s health-care overhaul and cutting the top corporate and individual tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent. The plan wasn’t passed by the Senate.
“We are not going backward, we are going forward,” Ryan said on Fox News yesterday. “We are not backing off of any of our ideas or solutions but we simply haven’t written” the next year’s budget proposal, he said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, criticized Ryan’s comments that the Republican 2013 budget would be based on its 2012 proposal.
“Once again, Republicans have chosen to undermine rather than strengthen Medicare, increase costs for seniors and cause Medicare to ‘wither on the vine,’ leading to an end of the guarantee,” Pelosi’s spokesman Nadeam Elshami said in an e-mailed statement.