House GOP rankled by Senate tax cut vote

Dec. 17, 2011 at 7:18 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Some U.S. House Republican members were upset with the Senate's overwhelming passage Saturday of a $30 billion tax cut and Medicare bill extension.

The Senate voted 89-10 to continue the payroll tax holiday for millions of workers and allows Medicare payments to stay at the current level through the first two months of 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Members are telling leadership, 'We don't want this deal,''' the Journal quoted Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., as saying.

Politico reported rank-and-file House Republicans who took part in a private conference call Saturday afternoon were angry about the legislation passed by the Senate despite the inclusion of a provision requiring the president to expedite consideration of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Washington publication said it wasn't clear what will happen in the House.

"Leaders said they held the call to get input from members," an unidentified House aide told Politico. "The speaker described three possible options -- accept [the] Senate bill, go to conference, or amend the Senate bill and send it back. Members are overwhelmingly disappointed in the Senate's decision to just 'kick the can down the road' for two months. No announcement was made regarding the schedule or plans."

President Obama, in a statement he delivered in the White House, said he was "pleased" by the Senate vote.

"While this agreement is for two months, it is my expectation -- in fact it would be inexcusable for Congress not to further extend this middle-class tax cut for the rest of the year. It should be a formality," Obama said. "And hopefully it's done with as little drama as possible when they get back in January.

"This really isn't hard. There are plenty of ways to pay for these proposals. This is a way to boost the economy that has been supported by these very same Democrats and Republicans in the past. It is something that economists believe will assure that the economy and the recovery is on a more stable footing than it otherwise would be."

For the bill to survive a House vote is another matter. "We have not signed off on anything at this point," said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the bill was "exactly what the Founding Fathers thought we would do," although the extension is a major compromise, as Senate Democrats and Republicans could not agree on how to pay for a full-year extension of the payroll tax break, CNN reported.

Similar to the debt ceiling expansion in August, the inability to approve a year-long tax break is another example of lawmakers kicking an issue down the road without solving the problem, The New York Times reported.

Republicans tied the two-month extension to a new time line for a White House decision whether or not it would approve the Keystone XL Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline, which is opposed by environmentalists, but favored by unions.

The bill stipulates the decision be made within 60 days but does not mandate approval of the pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas.

The split among two constituent groups that traditionally vote Democratic on national issues makes the project a sticky wicket for Obama, especially if the decision is rendered during an election year.

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