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Leaders Take Shots at Each Other Over Spending, Payroll Tax

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

In a sign that Congress is no closer to a bipartisan compromise on must-pass, year-end legislation, the Senate’s Democratic and Republican leaders launched into a war of words on the floor this morning.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Republicans are not being sincere in their desire to extend the president’s payroll tax holiday. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of not only holding the tax break hostage in their refusal to consider an oil pipeline rider, but also in holding up a government spending bill until there is agreement on the tax and benefits package.

And neither side agrees on whether they’ve already agreed to an omnibus appropriations bill to keep the government funded past Dec. 16.

“The Majority Leader signaled yesterday that he and the president are so determined to turn even the most bipartisan job-creating legislation into a political issue that he’ll ask his Members to hold off on signing the government-funding legislation they’ve already agreed to — just to hand the president what they view as a political victory this week,” McConnell said. “This isn’t just irresponsible, it’s reckless.”

House Republicans also say that the deal on a sweeping spending bill is done. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) emerged from his caucus meeting Tuesday congratulating negotiators on their hard work and called on Senate Democrats to sign the conference report so he can bring the bill to the floor.

“When it comes to the minibus, I’m going to say that the appropriators, both Democrats and Republicans, both the House and the Senate, have worked hard the last six weeks to put this bill together. They’ve smiled at each other, they’ve shook hands, and it’s done,” Boehner said. “And I’m hopeful that the Senate leaders will come to their senses, allow Members to sign the report and move forward. There’s no reason to hold this bill.”

The House is scheduled to vote this afternoon on its version of the payroll tax cut extension, which includes provisions to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to go forward, among other things.

On the floor today, Reid indicated that the only way both measures would get passed is if Boehner works on compromises, noting that he said as much to the Ohio Republican yesterday.

“I said to him as serious as I could, ‘We’re not going to finish the work of our country this year unless we work together. You can’t pass anything in the House unless you get Democratic votes, because anything you pass with strictly Republican votes fails over here. And we can’t pass anything unless we get Republican votes,’” Reid said. “It’s a fact of life.”

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