Boehner Calls for New Payroll Tax Bill
Policy + Politics

Boehner Calls for New Payroll Tax Bill

House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday that he opposes a Senate-approved bill that extends a payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for just two months and said congressional bargainers need to write a new version that would last an entire year.

As if to suggest other changes he would like in the legislation, the Ohio Republican mentioned a provision that would block Obama administration anti-pollution rules and "reasonable reductions in spending" that were in a House-passed version of the payroll tax bill that the Senate ignored.

Boehner's comments came a day after House Republicans used a conference call to complain bitterly about the Senate bill, putting House passage in serious jeopardy.

House Republicans dislike the Senate bill for many reasons, including its lack of what they consider real spending cuts and its removal of restrictions on Obama administration rules. Others are unhappy about extending unemployment benefits or oppose cutting the payroll tax, which is used to finance the Social Security system.

"It's pretty clear I and our members oppose the Senate bill," Boehner said on "Meet the Press" on NBC. He added, "I believe two months is just kicking the can down the road."

House leaders have scheduled a vote on the bill for Monday.

The bill would force President Barack Obama to make a decision in the next two months on whether to build the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The president had initially said he would postpone a decision on the 1,700-mile-long pipeline until after next year's elections and threatened to kill the payroll tax bill if it included the pipeline provision. But he backed off this week as the Senate payroll compromise took shape.

Republicans strongly support the pipeline, which is supposed to pump oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas, for the thousands of jobs it is expected to create. Unions favor the plan but environmentalists oppose it, forcing Obama to choose between two Democratic constituencies.

The Senate bill says Obama can reject the pipeline only if he decides building it would not be in the national interest.

Congressional leaders had hoped that approval of the tax measure would end their work and let them send lawmakers home for the year. It is unclear how long it would take House and Senate leaders to work out any new compromise on the legislation, but Boehner suggested it could done in the next two weeks.

The bill would extend this year's 4.2 payroll tax rate through February. Without congressional action, that rate would return to 6.2 percent on Jan. 1, costing 160 million workers a two-month tax break worth nearly $170.

The bill would continue extra unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, which would also expire Jan. 1. It would also prevent a 27 percent in doctors' Medicare reimbursements from occurring on New Year's Day, a cut that could discourage some physicians from treating Medicare-covered patients.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.