New wild card in Congress's fight over payroll tax: an oil pipeline
House Republicans offer their plan for extending the payroll tax cut for US workers. A sweetener to get conservatives on board: the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which Obama wants to delay.
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Polls showed that voters shared that view, likely to be Exhibit A in Democrats' 2012 campaign to hold the Senate and take back the House. And GOP leaders took note. In a switch, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky last week told his caucus that extending payroll tax cuts was crucial to GOP prospects in 2012.Skip to next paragraph
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Many rank-and-file Republicans still don’t buy it. But the prospect of a fight with the White House over the oil pipeline is giving House Republicans a new rallying point. Cheers erupted during a private meeting of the House GOP caucus Thursday morning as Speaker John Boehner, adding the pipeline to the GOP plan, called on Republicans to “take the fight” to the president.
“The Keystone pipeline project will create tens of thousands of jobs immediately,” said Mr. Boehner afterward.
“It's pretty clear that the president has decided to push this decision off for a year, conveniently until after his next election,” he added. “Well, the American people can't wait, as the president said.”
In a briefing on Thursday, Obama characterized the speaker’s move as just “wanting to dicker,” to see “what they can extract from us in order to get this done.”
“However many jobs might be generated by a Keystone pipeline, they’re going to be a lot fewer than the jobs that are created by extending the payroll tax cut and extending unemployment insurance,” Obama added.
The House GOP bill, released Friday, also includes a measure to block a 27 percent cut in payments to doctors who serve Medicare patients, set to begin on Jan. 1. Republicans propose a two-year "doc fix." And it would block new federal regulations to limit toxic emissions from industrial boilers – another measure aimed to win support from conservatives and Democrats from coal states.
The plan continues a GOP assault on the president's signature health-care reform, defunding an $8 billion prevention and public health fund. It also extends tax breaks for business investment and $16.5 billion in block grants to the states to help needy families, including new limits to prevent accessing welfare funds in strip clubs, liquor stores, or casinos.
The House bill is expected on the floor for votes next week.
The Senate, meanwhile, is stuck in neutral. On Thursday the Democratic plan and the Republican plan each fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance a payroll tax bill to the floor.
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