Economic Outlook: Stocking stuffer

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Dec. 19, 2011 at 9:37 AM
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The U.S. Senate and the White House gave the party of disgruntlement the high ground and House Republicans promptly took it.

The Senate, thinking small, voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to extend the tax holiday for two months, which would mean the issue would have to be revisited by February. This would all but cement the reputation of this Congress as almost too weak-kneed to even kick the can down the road, which is all they seem to do lately.

The stalemate revolved around two Senate caucuses to figure out how to pay for the tax holiday for a full 12 months, CNN reported. The bill was also tied to keeping Medicare payments at current levels.

Senate Republicans thought they had won a major concession by attaching a mandate for the White House to make up its mind on the Keystone XL Canada-Texas oil pipeline that is shaping up as a lose-lose election year blemish for President Obama. Environmentalists oppose the project while unions favor it. Someone is going to be sore no matter which way the decision goes.

"I don't think anybody in the House Republican conference sees it [the payroll tax holiday bill] as much of a compromise," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. "Our conference is prepared to stay here to work through Christmas, New Year's, whatever it takes."

Hello! Hello! Is Cole saying House Republicans can pull off what the so-called supercommittee recently decided was an impossible task? And they will do this, one would think, before Christmas? If so, this is a stocking stuffer too good to be true.

The bill is "only for two months," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Sunday.

"You know, the president said we shouldn't go on vacation until we get our work done. And frankly, House Republicans agree."

"I would hate to think that speaker Boehner is refusing to act on this bipartisan compromise because he is afraid it will actually pass," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "But I cannot imagine any other reason why he would not put it up for a vote."

In international markets Monday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan dropped 1.26 percent and the Shanghai composite index in China slipped 0.3 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 1.18 percent and the Sensex in India gave up 0.72 percent.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.38 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index was flat, rising 0.02 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany added 1.05 percent. The CAC 40 in France rose 1.25 percent and the Stoxx Europe 600 added 0.79 percent.

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