White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters en route to Kansas he'd be "awfully surprised" if Congress heads off for its winter vacation "while having decided that 160 million Americans ought to have a tax hike next year."
The 2 percent cut in the payroll tax is due to expire Dec. 31, adding an average $1,000 to working Americans' tax bills.
"The president said himself quite explicitly that he, if necessary, will -- I think the phrasing was, be here through Christmas," Carney said.
Obama and his family have planned a 17-day vacation in Hawaii for the holidays, beginning Dec. 17.
House Republicans, meanwhile, decided to put off the issue, along with a vote on extending unemployment benefits, until next week, Politico reported.
Republicans and Democrats are at odds on how to offset the costs. Democrats are pushing for a surcharge on those making more than $1 million annually and Republicans want a pay freeze for federal employees. Politico said Republicans also want to change the formula for paying doctors who serve Medicare patients.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, proposed a modified surtax on millionaires, exempting active business income in a bid to break the logjam, The Hill reported.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he expected to bring the issue up Friday for a vote. Democrats Monday revised their proposal, eliminating the tax holiday for employers.
"Yesterday, the Republicans criticized our plan, our revised plan, and they haven't even read it," Reid said Tuesday. "If they'd taken time to read the legislation, they would have seen that basically every piece in there is bipartisan in nature, including now the tax on millionaires."
Collins' proposal would keep the payroll tax at this year's 4.2 percent, compared with the 3.1 percent proposed by Democrats, and extend the rate to employers on their first $10 million of payroll.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, however, signaled neither proposal goes far enough, The Hill said.