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McConnell, Boehner, Reid Assert Positions

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner and his conferees indicated at a news conference today that they are not at all willing to pass a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday.

Updated: 1:29 p.m.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) today offered a potential resolution to the weeklong stalemate over the expiring payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits, and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) quickly convened a meeting of key Republicans to consider it, all the while reasserting the House GOP’s position.

McConnell called on the House to pass the Senate’s two-month deal and the Senate to appoint conferees for the longer-term deal but did not specify a time frame to conclude the conference.

McConnell’s offer could give House Republicans a face-saving resolution to the impasse, given his House counterparts have been hammered by House and Senate Democrats, rank-and-file Senate Republicans and even media outlets normally friendly to their cause for refusing to even bring the two-month bill to the floor.

Boehner released a statement quickly after McConnell’s offer went public, which reasserted the House Republican position.

“The House and Senate have two different bills, but the same goal. That is why we believe, as Sen. McConnell suggested, the two chambers should work to reconcile the two bills so that we can provide a full year of payroll tax relief — and do it before year’s end,” said a spokesman for Boehner, just minutes after McConnell released his statement.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who was appointed by Boehner to be a conferee on the payroll tax cut bill, exited the Speaker's office today saying the House is unlikely to back down from its demand that the Senate negotiate a yearlong deal before the new year begins.

"We continue to believe that the differences need to be worked out in a conference committee," Price said. He added, "Look, there's a difference between the House and the Senate. The way that you solve these is to find a conference committee, get together and settle out the differences." He noted the holidays should not be an obstacle, given that many people "all across this country continue to work" through the winter holidays.

McConnell has largely kept mum since the Senate’s Saturday vote to pass a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and the subsequent House GOP refusal to take up and pass the Senate-brokered bipartisan compromise.

Instead, Boehner at the urging of his caucus, opted to appoint conferees to reconcile the two bills, with just days left on the 2011 calendar.

Today, McConnell proclaimed that neither position was “mutually exclusive.”

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