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Reid Hopes for Payroll Tax Vote Tonight

Bill Clark/Roll Call

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he is working with GOP leaders to bring up dueling votes on the payroll tax holiday this evening, but an impasse between Democrats and Republicans over how to pay for the measure will likely cause both bills to fail.

Reid and Senate Democrats dug in on their proposed extension — and expansion — of an expiring payroll tax holiday, with the Majority Leader saying he is not ready to concede on the Democratic proposal even in the face of GOP opposition.

“Republicans have talked for years that they want small business to be incentivized, to create jobs — that’s what our legislation does,” Reid told reporters in a rare Thursday stakeout. “Small businesses, people who have payrolls of less than $15 million a year have a benefit of significant measure. ... We’re going to stick with that. It’s the right thing to do. We need to do more rather than less.”

But in order to consider the payroll tax cut today, Democrats need an agreement with the GOP. Reid filed cloture on a motion to take up the Democratic bill Wednesday, setting up a Friday vote unless an agreement can be reached to move it up.

“What we would be willing to do ... is agree to have them tonight,” Reid told reporters today. He said he would prefer to have the vote earlier in the evening, but he said that was still being negotiated.

If no agreement can be reached, “We may have to spill over into tomorrow to finish what we are doing on the payroll tax,” Reid said.

The Democrats’ bill would extend and expand the current payroll tax cut for workers, dropping the 2012 rate to 3.1 percent from the 4.2 percent paid in 2011. The Democratic bill would also cut the payroll tax in half for employers on the first $5 million of taxable payroll for 2012.

The pay roll tax, which funds Social Security, is normally 6.2 percent, a rate employees would return to if the tax break is allowed to expire Jan. 1.

The $265 billion cost of the legislation would be paid for with a 3.25 percent tax on those making more than $1 million a year.

Republicans argue that the millionaires tax would slow the economy and harm small businesses and have offered an alternative to extend to current payroll tax break.

The GOP counterproposal would be offset by extending the current pay freeze for federal workers by three years, trimming the federal workforce by 10 percent and means testing programs such as Medicare, unemployment insurance and food stamps so that benefits are reduced for upper-income earners.

The offset would cover the cost of the extension and reduce the deficit by $111 billion over the next decade.

Both measures are expected to fail to win the 60 votes needed to overcome filibusters.

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