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House GOP Still Looking for Votes on Extenders Package

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Updated: 1:40 p.m.

House Republican leaders maintained today that a payroll tax cut extension measure would pass, even as they remained short of the votes to do so.

“I believe it will pass with bipartisan support today,” Speaker John Boehner said following the GOP’s weekly Conference meeting.

“The president says the American people can’t wait for jobs. Well clearly if we pass this bill today, we will be taking the first big step towards creating jobs in America,” the Ohio Republican added. “It will be time for the United States Senate to act.”

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy told colleagues during the closed-door meeting that Republicans were still short the 218 votes needed to pass the measure on the floor. But the California Republican assured reporters, “If your question is will we pass it? Yes, we will pass it.”

The measure considered on the floor today extends the payroll tax cut for another year and renews long-term unemployment insurance benefits after making significant changes to the program. It would also halt a scheduled cut to reimbursements doctors collect from treating Medicare patients.

While the measure extends Democratic priorities, the House version also has a handful of provisions favored by the GOP. Language to expedite approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline project and reduce Clean Air Act regulations for boilers have caused consternation among Democrats who widely oppose the two provisions. Democrats who want to pay for the payroll tax cut extension by taxing wealthy Americans also blast the GOP’s bill for trimming the federal workforce and extending a freeze of their pay.

During his weekly briefing with reporters, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said, “The overwhelming majority of our Members will be voting ‘no.’”

“This is a partisan bill, sticking a finger in the eyes of those who disagree with the non-germane policies that are included, included simply for the purposes of energizing a small political base in their party,” the Maryland Democrat said.

Hoyer added: “Our expectation is that if they’re going to pass this, they need 218 Republicans. We’re not going to pass the bill for them.”

Even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said the measure would be defeated in his chamber if it passes the House, the White House weighed in today with a formal veto threat against the House bill. Previously, the president had said he would "reject" the legislation, but he stopped short of saying he would veto it.

Correction: Dec. 13

An earlier verison of this article included the wrong title for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

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