House Speaker John Boehner announced his party’s year-end legislation that would extend the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance benefits and a patch to prevent a 27% cut in Medicare reimbursement to doctors. The legislation also includes poison pills which the President already vowed to reject, designed as sweeteners to get conservative members on board.
One official who attended the closed-door meeting said lawmakers responded particularly favorably to a provision that would assure construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, despite a veto threat from President Barack Obama [...]
The House measure varies on several points from legislation that Obama and congressional Democrats want, but the president seemed eager on Wednesday to draw a line at items he described as extraneous. His veto threat was specifically linked to any requirement for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a project that he recently put on hold until after the 2012 election.
“Efforts to tie a whole bunch of other issues to what’s something that they should be doing anyway will be rejected by me,” he said.
The House bill merely extends, and does not expand, the payroll tax cut, keeping the rate that employees would pay in 2012 at 4.2%. The legislation does not yet have a CBO score, but based on past performance, we can say that the payroll tax cut would cost around $110 billion, a one-year extension of unemployment benefits around $50 billion, and a two-year “doc fix” around $38 billion. To pay for this roughly $200 billion bill, the current pay freeze on federal workers would get extended to 2015 and wealthier seniors would pay more for Medicare, in addition to a number of smaller savings. These include cuts to areas of the Affordable Care Act, and forcing families that receive the Earned Income Tax Credit to prove their child’s citizenship, a particularly low blow.
Brian Beutler explains the political gambit here, with Republicans in the House trying to jam Democrats in the Senate:
Republicans don’t want this bill to fail unexpectedly as other must-pass bills have under GOP leadership this year. GOP aides predicted confidently that the legislation will get at least the minimum 218 votes required for passage, coming mostly or entirely from Republican members. If they’re right, the question is whether they treat it as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, and adjourn for the holidays, leaving Senate Democrats to pass their bill or nothing. Senate Dems insist they’re prepared to stick around DC through the holidays, to seize the bully pulpit, if Republicans pull that trick.
Republicans also seem ready to skirmish. “If President Obama threatens to veto it over a provision that creates American jobs, that’s a fight we’re ready to have,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. If that’s how it goes down it’ll be a noisy New Year.
Steel is talking about the Keystone XL provision, which is actually not a job creator.
Republicans are getting their back up with this move, and they will argue that they did their part to avoid a tax increase on wage earners and the expiration of benefits for 2 million jobless. Democrats have already insistently demanded tax increases on the rich as a condition of this extension. We’re coming down to the wire, with just a little over the week left in this Congressional session.