WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- President Obama said he was prepared to hunker down in Washington during the holidays to ensure a payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance are extended.
"With respect to my vacation, I would not ask anybody to do something I'm not willing to do myself," Obama said Thursday during a brief news conference. "[The] bottom line is, is that we are going to stay here as long as it takes to make sure that the American people's taxes don't go up on Jan. 1, and to make sure that folks who desperately need unemployment insurance get that help."
"And there's absolutely no excuse for us not getting it done," he said.
If Congress fails to extend the Social Security payroll tax cut, it will expire at the end of the year and raise taxes for about 160 million taxpayers by about $1,000 annually.
"This is about making sure that everybody is doing their fair share and that the middle class does not see their taxes go up by $1,000 in 23 days," Obama said.
He said congressional Republican leadership in recent days said they think the payroll tax cut can be extended, "but the question is what price will they extract from the president in order to get it done."
"This is not about me," Obama said. "This is for 160 million people who, in 23 days, are going to see their taxes go up if Congress doesn't act. This is for 5 million individuals who are out there looking for a job and can't find a job right now in a tough economy who could end up not being able to pay their bills or keep their house if Congress doesn't act."
Instead of trying to figure out what they can "extract politically from me" to pass the tax cut, Obama said Republicans need "be focused on what's good for the economy, what's good for jobs and what's good for the American people."
White House press secretary Jay Carney was blunter.
"We may be here through Christmas," he said during a media briefing immediately after Obama's news conference, "but it would take an awful lot of chutzpa and political courage" for Congress to go home and have to answer the question, "Why did you vote to raise my taxes on Jan. 1?"
House Republicans plan to include controversial environmental and immigration provisions the payroll tax cut bill that could make a final deal with the Senate more difficult but are likely to appeal to the GOP rank-and-file in the House, The Hill reported.
Speaker John Boehner said Thursday the bill would include language that would allow for the building of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline despite Obama's threat to reject the entire measure if it included that provision.
"The Keystone pipeline will put tens of thousands of Americans to work immediately, it has bipartisan support in the House and Senate and as the prime minister of Canada said, this is a no-brainer," Boehner said.
Boehner and Obama met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday.
Among other provisions that will be included is one that would bar illegal immigrants from receiving some tax credit payments given to families by requiring recipients provide more identification information to receive the credit.
During his news conference Thursday, Obama said the Keystone project is undergoing a review by the State Department.
"But here's what I know: However many jobs might be generated by a Keystone pipeline, they're going to be a lot fewer than the jobs that are created by extending the payroll tax cut and extending unemployment insurance," Obama said.
Senate Republicans blocked a Democrat plan to extend the payroll tax cut Thursday, The hill said.
The Middle Class Tax Cut Act, defeated 50-48, would have cut the payroll tax paid by employees to 3.1 percent from the current 4.2 percent and would have been offset by a surtax on millionaires.