Congress' GOP Tries To Blunt Obama, Democrats' Use Of Payroll-Tax Issue

House Speaker John Boehner speaks to reporters after a closed-door GOP meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. i i

hide captionHouse Speaker John Boehner speaks to reporters after a closed-door GOP meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.

Susan Walsh/AP
House Speaker John Boehner speaks to reporters after a closed-door GOP meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.

House Speaker John Boehner speaks to reporters after a closed-door GOP meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011.

Susan Walsh/AP

What politician wants to be on the side of not extending the very populist payroll tax holiday at a time when many Americans with jobs are struggling to pay their bills?

Certainly not congressional Republican leaders who realize that's a dangerous spot to be in as your party gets ready to defend its House majority and try to gain control of the Senate in 2012.

It's even more perilous because President Obama is out there hammering your side for dragging its heels on the issue, telling voters to contact you with the message: "don't be grinches."

So congressional Republican leaders were making it clear Wednesday that they didn't plan to be on the wrong side of this issue.

While they disagreed with the Democrats' proposal to pay for the $120 billion extension by raising taxes on millionaires, GOP leaders definitely wanted to erase any doubts of their support for an extension.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, said Wednesday:

"An overwhelming majority of Republicans believe it should be extended, so we'll have to figure out how to package it."

On the House side, many Republicans, citing the federal government's vast deficits and the debt, have opposed having the payroll-tax holiday extending beyond the end of the year. The tax cut would mean $1,500 more in take-home pay for the typical family.

But House GOP leaders told their members Wednesday that not extending the cut wasn't an option.

An excerpt from Roll Call:

House Republican leaders bluntly warned their Members today that opposing an extension to a popular payroll tax cut is politically unsustainable.

According to a Republican source in the GOP's weekly conference meeting Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) told his conference that "if you guys think that not extending the payroll tax cut is politically advantageous, you've got to be kidding yourself." But he reassured Republicans that he would look for spending cuts to pay for it.

And while Republicans were sending the message that they intended to not make it easy for the president to paint them as grinches, Obama continued to keep the pressure on them. At an appearance in Scranton, he said:

"So I tell you what, Scranton. They may have voted no on these tax cuts once, but — but I'm already filled with the Christmas spirit. There's kind of some chill in the air. (Laughter.)

"You know, I saw some Christmas decorations at the Festas' (he visited the home of a Scranton teacher before the event.) So I'm in a Christmas spirit. I want to give them another chance. I want to give them a chance to redeem themselves. (Cheers.)

"We — we're going to give them another chance. So as early as Friday, this Friday, in a couple of days, we're going to give them a chance to take a simple vote on these tax cuts.

"If they vote no, then the typical family's taxes will go up by a thousand dollars next year. If they vote yes, then the typical family will have an extra $1,500 in their pocket. (Applause.) So — let's just be clear. If they vote no, your taxes go up. Vote yes, you get a tax cut. Which way do you think Congress should vote?"

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