House Will Likely Modify Senate Extenders Package
The House will likely modify or send to conference a Senate-passed bill to temporarily extend jobless benefits and the payroll tax cut when the chamber returns Monday, prolonging a session already well past its target end-date.
The chamber will also vote on the Senate-passed version of the bill, according to the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The Virginia Republican’s office sent a release Saturday night indicating that votes are possible on Tuesday as well.
The move would force Senate leaders, who have already compromised to pass a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance benefits and a patch to payments for doctors who treat Medicare patients, to take the issue up yet again.
The announcement comes after GOP leaders held a conference call Saturday afternoon to discuss the Senate-passed bill.
Republicans on the call said there was deep, widespread unhappiness with the Senate bill. Already cool to the idea of renewing either unemployment insurance or the payroll tax provisions, many Republicans questioned the fiscal sanity of a two-month extension, arguing it gives the public little financial security.
One Republican on the call said Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) seemed to indicate that he believed the Conference should accept the compromise because of the inclusion of language that would force President Barack Obama to decide on the Keystone XL pipeline project within 60 days.
But few Members appeared to be in any mood to simply agree to the deal, and many Republicans seemed to be itching for a fight with Democrats and the White House.
Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) also stated that the conference could do better, according to the Republican on the call.
“Leaders said they held the call to get input from Members,” a House GOP aide said. “The Speaker described three possible options — accept the Senate bill, go to conference or amend the Senate bill and send it back. Members are overwhelmingly disappointed in the Senate’s decision to just ‘kick the can down the road’ for two months.”
The mood largely echoes that of Senate Democrats and Republicans, who nonetheless begrudgingly passed the two-month extension. House Democrats indicated today that they are none-too-pleased with the two-month extension, either.
“House Democrats will return to Washington to take up this legislation without delay, and we will keep up the fight to extend these provisions for a full year,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif) said in a statement.
House Ways and Means ranking member Sander Levin (Mich.) issued a statement calling the two-month extension “wholly inadequate,” though he did not explicitly say he would vote against it if the plan comes to the House floor.
“This is a result of the complete unwillingness of Republicans to ask the very wealthy to sacrifice some of their tax breaks to help get our economy back on a more stable footing,” Levin said. “Our nation’s workers thrown out of jobs through no fault of their own deserve better.”
Jonathan Strong contributed to this report.