Republicans, Democrats at odds over payroll tax cut, unemployment extensions

Here and Now

On Saturday, the U.S. Senate agreed to a compromise that extended unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts for two months, and also moved the Keystone XL pipeline forward.

It was mostly a bit of political kick-the-can that was designed to buy them time to work out a longer-term deal to keep the tax cuts and benefits in place. On Saturday, all sides, Republicans and Democrats seemed to be saying that everyone could live with this deal. It had something for everyone. But on Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner changed his tune. He and his fellow Republicans in the house could not agree with it.

Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York summed up his compatriot’s feelings in a tweet that quickly went viral on Monday.

“Negotiating w/ @SpeakerBoehner is like nailing Jell-O to the wall-he called Senate compromise a ‘good deal’ on Sat & backed out on Sun,” he wrote.

The Senate adjourned into January because of the broad, bipartisan support for the two month bill.

“We opposed the Senate bill because doing a two-month extension instead of a full-year extension causes uncertainty for job creators,” Boehner said.

The House is expected to vote on the bill Monday night and most likely will defeat it, which would send the whole issue back up into the air.

Gail Chaddock, a reporter with the Christian Science Monitor, said this is just the latest example of a storyline that has been playing out all year long. Boehner came to power with the help of more than 80 conservative, freshmen Republicans — many backed by the tea party.

“Initially they oppose him strongly in an embarrassing vote and we write stories about how the speaker can’t control the freshmen, and then the speaker goes into a closed door meeting with them and say ‘Look, we can’t shut down the government. Look what happened to House Republicans when they first took back the House with Speaker Gingrich. And we can’t let these tax cuts expire,’ ” Chaddock said. “The caucus thinks about it, and they come out and vote differently. They may be the template this time as well.”

Chaddock said she expects the first vote to go against the bill, but the question is whether Boehner will ultimately carry the day by pointing out that if conservatives are worried about uncertainty and raising taxes, what they’re doing is creating uncertainty and raising taxes.

“That’s how it’s going to appear to the average voter. It’s a very tough point to sell,” Chaddock said.

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