TOPICS > Economy

Democrats Pressure House GOP to Back Down on Payroll Tax Cut

December 21, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Republicans and Democrats mired in a stalemate over extending the payroll tax cut Wednesday. Judy Woodruff reports on House Speaker John Boehner's call to President Obama, and the White House's use of Facebook and Twitter to leverage support for extending the tax break.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

JEFFREY BROWN: Republicans and Democrats in Washington traded new jabs today in a stalemate over extending the payroll tax cut. Both sides insisted the other blink first, but neither did so.

Judy Woodruff has our report.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Wherever they could today, Democrats tried to put pressure on House Republicans to back down.

At a brief pro forma session, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer could be heard challenging the acting speaker, Republican Michael Fitzpatrick.

REP. STENY HOYER, D-Md., House minority whip: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for unanimous consent that we bring up the bill to extend the tax cut for 160 million Americans as you walk off the floor, Mr. Speaker.

You’re walking out. You’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Tuesday, the Republican majority in the House rejected a Senate bill extending the payroll tax cut by two months, along with long-term jobless benefits. Most Republicans in the Senate had supported the temporary measure.

WOMAN: Well, right now, Congress is deadlocked.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, on FOX News this morning, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor blamed Senate Democrats and their leader for pushing a temporary fix.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va., House majority leader: The fact is, that was the only deal Harry Reid was willing to bring up in the Senate, but, in the end, it doesn’t solve anything, and it may make it worse, and we’re back having this fight again and again.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Instead, House Republicans demanded a yearlong extension. They want to pay for it with spending cuts that Democrats oppose and to impose stricter limits on unemployment benefits.

As of this morning, Speaker John Boehner was still saying senators need to return from their holiday recess and negotiate.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, speaker of the House: All we’re asking for is to get the Senate members over here to work with us to resolve our differences so we can do what everybody wants to do. The time to do our work is now. Time is running short, but we have ample time to get this done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, wrote to Boehner, urging the speaker to call House members back and approve the Senate bill.

And White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama made a new overture to Boehner in a phone call today.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: The president reiterated the need and his commitment to work with Congress to extend the payroll tax cut for the entire year, and the fact that the short-term bipartisan compromise passed by almost the entire Senate is the only option to ensure that middle-class families are not hit with a tax hike in ten days.

JUDY WOODRUFF: An aide to Boehner said the speaker, in turn, asked the president to turn up the heat on his Democratic allies.

Instead, the administration launched a new initiative on Facebook and Twitter overnight. It asked people what it would mean if the tax cut ends, and they lose an average of $40 pay each week.

At the same time, House Republicans were taking heat from some Senate Republicans and from some other usual supporters. A Wall Street Journal editorial said — quote — “The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.”

Meanwhile, as the political drama played out, some 160 million Americans waited to see if their taxes will rise as the year-end deadline inches closer.