The White House today called on Congress to finish its work on extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.
“Congress should get the job done,” White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We saw last year that Congress’ inability to bring things to closure just adds to uncertainty and drags the economy. I don’t think Congress wants to repeat even what they did in December, where it wasn’t clear they were going to be able to act, and it took away from the benefit of passing it in the end.”
Host George Stephanopoulos asked Lew why the White House was not more directly involved in the talks and why it had not reached out to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Lew put the responsibility on Congress.
“Speaker Boehner said this should be resolved in a conference committee with the House and the Senate. They’ve been meeting,” he said. “The list of options that’s in front of them is known to everyone. They need to make some decisions.”
Lew, recently appointed as the president’s third chief of staff, stuck to telling Congress to find a solution.
“I think Congress should get it done, you know, on time,” he said, adding that a deal could add as much as 1 percent additional growth to the economy.
Later on “This Week,” House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan placed blame for the gridlock on the payroll tax issue squarely on Democrats.
“The president’s party leaders are more or less not engaging in these conversations,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “We have offered literally scores of different offsets. We’ve taken provisions from the president’s own budget as ways of paying for this payroll tax holiday, yet they continue to insist on not agreeing to those kinds of things.”
Ryan said he expected the payroll tax holiday to be extended but expressed frustration with Democrats. “I do believe this will get extended. But when we make offer after offer based on policies that we know Democrats and the president have supported in the past, yet they still insist on not coming to agreement, it’s difficult to see exactly how this is going to pan out.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Lew was blunt. “I think that for the next short period of time, our No. 1 priority is Congress needs to do its work and extend the payroll tax cut,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.