July 31, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Negotiators Reach Deal on Extending Payroll Tax Cut

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (right) and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus completed the deal after a long day of negotiations.

The fact that the deal had not been posted online by Thursday means House Republicans would have to renege on their Pledge to America in order to hold a Friday vote. The pledge promises each bill will be posted for three calendar days before a floor vote.

An aide with knowledge of the talks also said that certain Medicare tax extenders were included in the agreement as well.

Although lawmakers and aides were relieved to announce a deal, approval from the conference committee is just a first step. The legislation still faces a relatively bumpy path through the House, even though most sources believed Wednesday that the 10-month package will become law.

The federal pension offsets, though more palatable as amended, and reforms to jobless benefits have turned off some Democrats. And Republicans lamented that a $100 billion payroll tax cut extension would not be offset. It seemed that as a deal inched closer, it revealed more than ever the fundamental divides between the parties and the displeasure each side felt in feeling that its negotiators gave up too much.

“A lot of us are concerned” about taking money from federal worker pensions, Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said. He added that such a provision could keep him from voting for the bill.

Even Senate leaders conceded that the agreement, particularly the compromises made on jobless benefits, is far from ideal.

When asked whether the agreement is good, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “No.”

“We started with a position that says we won’t pay for [unemployment insurance] — we’re not going to prevail on that,” the Illinois Democrat added. “Secondly, we want to protect those, particularly in high unemployment states, so there’s some strong feelings among some of our Members.”

The agreement would reduce the number of weeks unemployed workers could receive benefits in most states, but the number of weeks varies depending on the jurisdiction.

Durbin acknowledged that it is much easier for Senate leaders to get their Members in line than it is for House Republicans.

“What [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)] said to me this morning was, ‘I think we have an agreement; I know what’s in it.’ And now the question is, ‘What can [Speaker] John Boehner pass?’ And as soon as he puts something on the floor and passes it, I’m ready to sit down with our people and say, ‘Well this is it,’” Durbin said. Because the House GOP nearly scuttled December’s short-term deal on the payroll tax cut extension that was negotiated between Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Durbin said the Senate would not likely again try to initiate legislation.

“I think McConnell’s gun-shy. He got burned,” Durbin said.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a member of the leadership team who represents an economically depressed state, expressed concern about the proposed unemployment insurance reform, although she wanted to reserve judgment until she reviewed the final agreement.

“Obviously, I’m concerned with any reduction in weeks when we have so many people looking for work for so long, but I have to look at all the details,” Stabenow said.

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