Speaker John Boehner announced today that he has reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to extend the payroll tax holiday for two months while working to find a compromise that could keep the tax cut extended until the end of 2012.
In a hastily called news conference, the Ohio Republican said that the House and Senate will take up the measure by unanimous consent Friday morning. He could not, however, guarantee that no Members would object and demand a roll call vote.
The deal comes after a week in which House Republicans were pummeled, not just by Democrats but some in their own party, for not agreeing to a Senate-passed deal that would extend the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits for two months while preventing a cut to doctors’ Medicare reimbursements and forcing President Barack Obama to decide on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days.
“It may not have been politically the smartest thing in the world,” Boehner said, “but let me tell you what: I think our Members waged a good fight. We were able to come to an agreement.”
Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican whom Boehner picked to be on the conference committee, summed up the beating his caucus had taken when he said, “I am willing to fight on, but in the end House Republicans felt like they were re-enacting the Alamo, with no reinforcements and our friends shooting at us.”
Democrats who had stood their ground praised the deal.
“This is good news, just in time for the holidays. ... And I want to thank every American who raised your voice to remind folks in this town what this debate was all about. It was about you. And today, your voices made all the difference,” Obama said in a statement released this afternoon.
Senate Democrats touted their victory and announced they would appoint negotiators for the long-term extension to be worked out in the new year.
“I am grateful that the voices of reason have prevailed and Speaker Boehner has agreed to pass the Senate’s bipartisan compromise,” Reid said in a statement. “But there remain important differences between the parties on how to implement these policies, and it is critical that we protect middle-class families from a tax increase while we work them out.”
The move marks a significant retreat for the House GOP, which all week refused to approve any short-term extension and voted instead to create a conference committee to seek a one-year deal with Senate Democrats.
Democrats did not agree and left House Republicans sitting alone at the table.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.