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Reid: ‘I Will Not Reopen’ Talks on Payroll Tax

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today that he will not return to the negotiating table on a yearlong payroll tax cut extension until the House passes a bipartisan Senate bill that would extend the tax holiday for two months.

In a statement, Reid responded to Speaker John Boehner’s rejection of the Senate-passed bill, and the House’s plan to vote that measure down tonight. The Ohio Republican and other House leaders have said the House and Senate should move to a conference on the bill to negotiate a new compromise.

“My House colleagues should be clear on what their vote means today. If Republicans vote down the bipartisan compromise negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders, and passed by 89 senators including 39 Republicans, their intransigence will mean that in ten days, 160 million middle class Americans will see a tax increase, over two million Americans will begin losing their unemployment benefits, and millions of senior citizens on Medicare could find it harder to receive treatment from physicians,” Reid said.

Previously, Boehner had asked Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to devise a deal on the bill, and Reid suggested that the bill’s failure in the House was a product of Boehner’s failed leadership.

“Senator McConnell and I negotiated a compromise at Speaker Boehner’s request. I will not re-open negotiations until the House follows through and passes this agreement that was negotiated by Republican leaders, and supported by 90 percent of the Senate,” Reid said. “This is a question of whether the House of Representatives will be able to fulfill the basic legislative function of passing an overwhelmingly bipartisan agreement, in order to protect the economic security of millions of middle-class Americans. Democratic and Republican leaders negotiated a compromise and Speaker Boehner should not walk away from it, putting middle-class families at risk of a thousand-dollar tax hike just because a few angry Tea Partiers raised their voices to the Speaker.”

Although McConnell has expressed support for “regular order” now that the House looks increasingly unlikely to pass the Senate deal, at least one Senate Republican has knocked the House GOP for their resistance.

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who faces a tough re-election battle next year, said in a statement today: “The House Republicans’ plan to scuttle the deal to help middle-class families is irresponsible and wrong. I appreciate their effort to extend these measures for a full year, but a two-month extension is a good deal when it means we avoid jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of American families.”

Although the House GOP rank and file strongly resisted passing any extension of the payroll tax cut this fall, House Republicans have said they now want a year-long extension of the payroll tax. The Senate’s two-month measure, which passed Saturday on an 89-10 vote, would also extend unemployment benefits and prevent a payment cut for doctors who serve Medicare patients. Reid added, “I have always sought a year-long extension. I have been trying to forge one for weeks, and I am happy to continue negotiating one once we have made sure middle-class families will not wake up to a tax increase on January 1st. So before we re-open negotiations on a year-long extension, the House of Representatives must protect middle-class families by passing the overwhelmingly bipartisan compromise that Republicans negotiated, and was approved by ninety percent of the Senate.”

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