House Republicans on Friday morning filed a 369-page bill to extend the current payroll-tax rate for one year, continue unemployment benefits, and prevent a scheduled cut in Medicare physician reimbursements. Congress is struggling to come up with compromises on these issues before the holiday recess.
Posting the package on the House Rules Committee website clears the way for promised action early next week.
“Everything in the House bill will be offset by spending cuts, many of which the president and independent experts have called for,” said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement accompanying the package’s posting.
“This package does not include everything Republicans would like, nor does it have all that Democrats have called for; but it is a win for the American people and worthy of the president’s signature,” argued Boehner.
It remains uncertain whether Boehner will have enough votes in his own conference to pass the measure, despite the addition of several “sweeteners” to attract more backing—such as legislation requiring a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline opposed by many Democrats and environmental groups.
For now, possible support from many House Democrats seems far from likely.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., launched an offensive on Friday hammering any possibility that GOP lawmakers would adjourn for Christmas without adopting a measure to extend the payroll-tax cut and unemployment insurance.
Pelosi panned the GOP plan as a partisan messaging toting “poison pills” that has no chance of acceptance by the Democratic-led Senate, even if passed in the House. She told reporters that Republicans essentially are saying, “We’re going to pay for it in ways that affect Medicare beneficiaries. We’re going to .. hold this hostage this hostage to the Keystone Pipeline – there’s no time for that. This isn’t serious.
“There isn’t time for sending messages,” said Pelosi, who reiterated that House Democrats are prepared to stay in session as long as it takes through the holiday season to get the payroll tax holiday and federal jobless benefits extended.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday the Keystone provision ensures the legislation’s defeat in the Senate if it survives a House vote next week.
“With the middle class facing a huge tax increase on the first of January, now is not the time to be debating unrelated measures like an oil pipeline,” Reid said in a statement. “If the House sends us their bill with Keystone in it, they are just wasting valuable time because it will not pass the Senate.”
Reid’s threat follows President Obama’s suggestion Thursday that he would veto any bill with the Keystone provision or other unrelated policy riders.