The House is in no hurry to deal with extending the payroll tax. They won’t take a vote this week, and they’re only scheduled to be in session for one more week until the Christmas break. And it’s not just the payroll tax that needs to be dealt with. There’s the funding of the government, unemployment insurance, a doc fix, the AMT patch and a host of tax extenders expiring at the end of the year. So the odds are that we’ll see a kitchen sink bill with some or all of these elements inside. And in all likelihood, the House will try to jam the Senate with it by passing some conservative piece of legislation with a bare majority and then leaving town.
As for what we might see coming out of the House, so far we have one hint: means testing Medicare, reversing the EPA boiler rule, shifting authority for Keystone XL and cutting Affordable Care Act funds:
House Republicans intend to propose a gradual increase in Medicare premiums for wealthy seniors to help cover the cost of renewing Social Security payroll tax cuts and benefits for the long-term unemployed, officials said Wednesday.
. . .
In addition to the extension of payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits that are at the heart of President Barack Obama’s jobs program, House Republicans plan to include a provision to avert a 27 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. All three face a Dec. 31 deadline for action.
In addition, GOP leaders eager to attract votes for the measure are likely to include conservative-backed provisions to speed the construction of a controversial oil pipeline from Canada to Texas and block a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule restricting toxic emissions from industrial boilers [...]
Republicans have said in recent days that to cover the cost of doctor fees under Medicare, they intend to cut funds from the year-old health care bill that is the president’s signature domestic achievement.
This is all going more or less to my expectations. A bunch of poison pills get thrown in the House bill, creating legislation that cannot pass the Senate. Then Republicans can take the high road, say they were the only ones to pass a bill, and blame Democrats for the ensuing tax increase, Medicare reimbursement cut and expiration of unemployment benefits.
Perhaps there’s a last-minute reprieve somewhere. Perhaps this will all work out. But that’s not the trajectory.