Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell Continue to Talk Payroll Deal

The two biggest obstacles to that departure appear to be both sides’ willingness to make concessions on payfors and the Keystone pipeline project.

Democrats, especially those with D.C. interests, have been vocal in their opposition to enacting a three-year pay freeze on federal workers and narrowing the federal workforce as a way to offset the payroll tax holiday and other provisions. And the Democrats’ proclivity toward using savings from the drawdowns in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been slammed by Republicans as gimmicky. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called such savings “phony” today.

Cornyn, a member of GOP leadership, said today the bill would have to be offset. Even though unemployment benefits were passed without offsets as recently as last year, he said, “we are in a new day. Nobody believes that the unemployment problem is going to get any better over the next year, and we have a huge debt overhanging.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he could support a bill for which the tax cut was not paid but the spending provisions were offset.

Meanwhile, Republicans refuse to budge on the Keystone issue, emboldened by the president’s public opposition to it. The measure has united GOP Members, especially those who are reluctant to support any sort of government spending bills. And the debate over the pipeline has put Democrats in a pickle: If they get much of what they want, an expansion of both jobless benefits and the payroll tax cut at current levels, would they give?

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stopped short of saying the president would veto the payroll tax measure over the Keystone pipeline today.

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