The Corner

Boehner Stands Firm in Payroll Tax Fight

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) called into Michael Medved’s radio show just now to discuss the ongoing standoff over the payroll tax extension, and offered no indication that, as ABC’s Jon Karl is predicting, House Republicans will cave on the issue.

Boehner noted that he spoke with President Obama on the phone today, and told him “we can get this resolved” so long as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Senate Democrats return to Washington to negotiate a compromise. Unfortunately, Boehner said, “they’re not willing to do that.”

The speaker pointed out that despite President Obama’s insistence that the House approve the Senate’s two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday (which experts have described as unworkable) the president had previously supported a year-long extension, which is called for in the House-passed version. “The president asked us to lengthen the payroll tax cut for another year,” Boehner said. “Americans are tired of Washington’s short-term gimmicks and fixes.”

Medved asked Boehner about the possibility of the House adopting the Krauthammer-Murdock plan, and simply amending the Senate bill by changing the expiration date from February 29 to December 31, 2012. The speaker did not seem especially warm to the idea, noting that the legislation already passed by the House included not only a year-long extension of the payroll tax holiday, but also an extension of unemployment benefits (along with reforms to the program), as well as the so-called “doc fix,” which provides reimbursement to Medicare providers. That makes for a rather expensive proposition (about $200 billion). Simply extending the Senate bill for another eight months would leave a majority of that cost unpaid for. Boehner insisted that the extension “needs to be offset it terms of other government spending.”

The primary source of disagreement between the two sides, Boehner noted, is over how offset that cost. “Just changing the date on the bill just means were adding to the deficit and means we get no reforms to the unemployment insurance fund, which is also critically important,” he said, adding “we can come to some agreement over the offsets.”

In response to the Wall Street Journal editorial criticizing the way Republicans have handled the payroll tax debate, Boehner defended the GOP’s position. “We are the party of lower taxes, we have been for 30 years, and that’s not going to change,” he said.

House Republicans stand ready to work towards a deal, he said, having already appointed eight members to a potential conference committee that would, if Democrats go along, be charged with ironing out a compromise between the two chambers. “I told the president multiple times today, my members are here,” he said. “We’re willing to sit down and resolve these differences and the sooner we do it the better off we’ll be…We’ve got to resolve this, and I’m confident that we will.”

 

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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