The MORNING LINE -- December 19, 2011 at 10:00 AM ET
House GOP Reject Senate's Payroll Tax Cut Bill
House Speaker John Boehner on Sunday rejected a bipartisan Senate measure to extend the payroll tax cut for two months. Photo by Roll Call/ Getty Images.
House Speaker John Boehner revealed Sunday that House Republicans would reject a bipartisan agreement passed by the Senate that would extend for two months a cut in the payroll tax rate for all American workers and extend unemployment insurance. Senate leaders in both parties had reached a compromise on the extension bill, which would also force President Obama to make a decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
But on a conference call this weekend, House Republicans made clear they weren't happy with that deal - they want a full-year extension of the benefits instead.
Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times reports on what was in the Senate bill, which passed 89-10 on Saturday*:
The once-seemingly sure deal, which allowed the Senate to recess for the year, was for a $33 billion package of bills to keep the Social Security tax paid by most workers at 4.2 percent rather than 6.2 percent, extend unemployment benefits for those already receiving them, and avoid reductions in Medicare payments to doctors. The measure would be effective through February.
But the deal slid off the rails abruptly on Saturday, just hours after the Senate vote, when House Republicans balked after being briefed about the terms by their leaders. Even a sweetener provision to speed the decision process for construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast could not mollify them. Mr. Boehner had called the provision a "victory."
And in Roll Call, Daniel Newhauser and Meredith Shiner and John Stanton present a detailed outline of what was behind the failed deal*.
The 48-hour tectonic shift is indicative of either a miscommunication between Congress' two top Republicans or a miscalculation on Boehner's part that he would be able to rally enough votes. Boehner had told Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to come up with a solution.
In a Sunday interview, Rep. Tom Cole gave McConnell credit for winning concessions on the Keystone XL pipeline project language included in the deal. But the Oklahoma Republican said that because Keystone has been such a focal point in the debate, Senate leaders likely thought the House would vote for any plan that included it. "In that regard he got a great victory, but the two-month thing is what really sticks in the throat of our people," Cole said. To send the House this bill is "either tone-deaf or it's simply because they were weary and wanted to go home."
Senate Democrats appeared in no hurry Sunday to call their members back to take up whatever bill the House might produce this week. Instead, they touted the broad bipartisan support for their own legislation. Eighty-nine Senators voted in favor of the two-month deal that would extend current law on payroll, unemployment and the Medicare doc fix, including every Member of the GOP leadership team.
Lawmakers have until the end of 2011 to extend these benefits if they want to prevent payroll taxes from returning to the 6.2 percent level - a provision President Obama has made a priority.
THE GOP RACE
The Texas congressman was the first choice of 23 percent of respondents in the automated poll released Sunday by the left-leaning firm.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney placed second at 20 percent, followed by former House speaker Newt Gingrich at 14 percent and 10 percent each for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Gingrich's support fell eight percentage points from last week, which came after a six point drop two weeks ago. That slide has been accompanied by a sharp decline in his favorability rating, from plus-31 (62/31) to plus-12 (52/40) to minus-1 (46/47).
The former speaker's downward trajectory has also coincided with an uptick in attacks from his GOP rivals and their supporters.
Paul has been running an ad in Iowa accusing Gingrich of "serial hypocrisy" for shifting his position on issues over the years. The pro-Romney "super PAC" Restore Our Future, meanwhile, has a spot airing in Iowa charging that Democrats would rather run against Gingrich because he has a "ton of baggage."
PPP's Tom Jensen writes that while Romney trails Paul, the former governor's ceiling appears to be higher:
One thing Romney really has going for him is more room for growth than Paul. Among voters who say they're not firmly committed to their current candidate choice, Romney is the second choice for 19% compared to 17% for Perry, 15% for Bachmann, and only 13% for Paul.
For Romney, the PPP results are more good news for his nomination prospects, capping a weekend that also saw him pick up endorsements from the Des Moines Register editorial page and former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas.
The next best thing to a win in Iowa for Romney would be if the caucus results mirror the current polls numbers, as such a fractured outcome would leave none of the candidates with much momentum heading into New Hampshire, which is friendly turf for the former Massachusetts governor.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
Gingrich and Romney both appeared on Sunday talk shows over the weekend and were put on the defensive for questions relating to money.
CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer pressed Gingrich to respond to a recent Wall Street Journal editorial accusing him of failing to understand why people were offended by his $1.6 million payment from the government-backed mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
"I think, candidly, we earned that editorial by not stopping and handling this from the day one and laying it out," Gingrich said.
The former speaker insisted that he did not lobby on the organization's behalf, but instead provided "consulting advice."
He also contended that the money he personally received was far less than the amount reported.
"The facts are, I didn't personally get that kind of money," Gingrich told Schieffer. "It went to a consulting firm which had offices in three cities. The share I got of it was relatively small."
Michele Bachmann, who criticized Gingrich on the issue during the last Thursday's GOP debate in Iowa, did not let up over the weekend.
"Since Newt has said he didn't need the money, I call on him to return those taxpayer dollars and fully disclose the nature of his role with Freddie Mac," Bachmann said in a statement responding to Gingrich's CBS appearance. "Newt's doublespeak on Freddie Mac and the $1.6 million he took to peddle his influence is part of his 30-year history as a Washington insider who will say anything to get elected."
Romney, meanwhile, faced questions on "Fox News Sunday" about an old photo of himelf and his business colleagues with money in their pockets, hands, and teeth, which he said was taken after his private equity firm, Bain Capital, won its first round of investment, worth roughly $37 million.
"We posed for a picture to celebrate the fact that we raised a lot of money," Romney said.
Democrats have already used the image to try and paint Romney as out of touch with the economic difficulties many Americans are facing, and he said he expected such attacks would continue if he became the Republican nominee.
"I know there will be every effort to put free enterprise on trial," Romney said.
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama holds meetings at the White House.
Rick Santorum campaigns in Iowa, holding a breakfast meet-and-greet in Creston at 8:30 a.m., hosting a town hall in Osceola at 1 p.m., and addressing the Warren County GOP Dinner in Indianola at 7 p.m.
Michele Bachmann continues her bus tour of Iowa, stopping in Hampton at 10 a.m., Iowa Falls at 10:50 a.m., Grundy Center at 12 p.m., Allison at 1 p.m., Charles City at 2:10 p.m., Osage at 3 p.m., Cresco at 4:30 p.m., Decorah at 5:30 p.m., New Hampton at 6:50 p.m., and Waverly at 8 p.m.
Jon Huntsman campaigns in New Hampshire, touring Insight Technology in Londonderry at 10 a.m., visiting Andover Corporation in Salem at 12:30 p.m., attending the Manchester Republican Committee Christmas Party at 5 p.m., and holding a town hall in Rindge at 7 p.m.
Rick Perry continues his bus tour of Iowa, stopping in Elkader at 11:15 a.m., Manchester at 1 p.m., Dyersville at 5:30 p.m., and Dubuque at 7 p.m.
Newt Gingrich visits Global Security Systems in Davenport, Iowa, at 3 p.m., and holds a town hall in Hiawatha at 8 p.m.
Ron Paul holds a town hall and food drive in Manchester, N.H., at 7:30 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
- An earlier version of this post did not properly format this quoted material.
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