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Boehner also called on the Senate to bring to the floor under an open process a House-passed bill that would extend the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance benefits and the doc fix. Senators should amend it and send it back to the House, he said.
“There’s an easy way to resolve our issues on the payroll tax cut bill,” Boehner said. “No more showboats I think it’s just time to legislate. I think America needs to see us earning our paychecks.”
The House bill includes several provisions that Democrats consider poison pills, such as rollbacks of environmental regulations, cuts to health care reform and a fast-track on the Keystone XL oil pipeline project.
Boehner down played Democrats’ new willingness to drop their insistence on a millionaires’ surtax on the payroll tax measure, saying, “I appreciate the fact they gave up on their millionaires surtax, but they didn’t give up anything because they never had [the votes for] it.”
Pelosi, on the other hand, called on Republicans to offer some concessions in return.
“I think it’s a sign of cooperation, of willingness, to remove obstacles to have an agreement by saying okay, that’s something you can’t agree to,” Pelosi said.
Boehner did not tip his hand as to where he could compromise. He sidestepped a question about whether Republicans would be willing to drop the pipeline project to get to a deal, saying only, “We believe strongly that this is the right thing to do for the country.”
While the Senate negotiates, Boehner said he sees no reason for the House to stay in session if an appropriations package moves through his chamber. He said he is committed to bringing the House back “within 24 hours” if and when a compromise is hashed out on the payroll tax package.
But President Barack Obama warned Congress again today not to leave town for the holidays without passing extensions of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.
“Congress should not and cannot go on vacation” before preventing a payroll tax increase and ensuring unemployed people don’t lose their benefits, he said.
“There is no reason the government should shut down over this,” Obama added.
The president made his remarks as he laid out the latest of his “we can’t wait” executive initiatives aimed at boosting jobs — this one on new work rules giving overtime and minimum-wage benefits to home health workers.
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.