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Obama Calls Boehner, Goes Christmas Shopping

Buoyed by a chorus of Senate Republicans and the Wall Street Journal ripping the House GOP’s handling of the payroll tax cut, President Barack Obama called Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and told him to pass the Senate’s two-month extension — and then went on a shopping-and-pizza run.

Boehner, according to an aide, retorted on the roughly 10-minute call that the president should call the Senate back to town and finish negotiations on a full-year tax cut.

“The Speaker told the president that his Conference was elected to change the way Washington does business and that we should not waste the next 10 days simply because it is an inconvenient time of year,” the aide said.

“‘Let’s get this done today,’ the Speaker said,” according to the aide.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had earlier invited the president to come to the Capitol to try to work out a deal.

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed the idea of negotiating a long-term deal until the House passes the Senate’s two-month extension, which Senators approved 89-10 on Saturday. The president again told Boehner that passing the Senate bill is the only way to ensure that taxes don’t go up Jan. 1. He also reiterated his interest in reaching a full-year deal, given that he originally proposed a year-long tax cut in September as part of his long-stalled American Jobs Act.

“The ball is in the House’s court,” Carney said. “There is a stalemate in that the Speaker will not act.”

The president also called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). But instead of asking him to bring back the Senate, Obama thanked Reid for working out a bipartisan compromise.

Carney dismissed House-passed legislation that would extend the tax cut for a full year, saying that bill is “filled with things that have nothing to do with the payroll tax cut.” The measure included legislation rolling back clean air regulations on boilers, language requiring the president to act on the Keystone XL oil pipeline and other measures Democrats opposed.

Carney said he disagreed with the push for further talks right now without passage of the Senate bill.

“We need the insurance that taxes will not go up Jan. 1,” he said.

Carney said House Republicans are “isolated” and should take the advice of Senate Republicans such as Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.) and the Wall Street Journal editorial board and pass the Senate bill.

Carney said GOP criticism of a short-term extension “doesn’t ring true” given that they sought short-term extensions of the debt ceiling that would have risked default every few months.

And he said that while the president is committed to a yearlong extension, he won’t do it on the GOP’s terms. The offsets “have to make sense,” Carney said, and the bill shouldn’t be larded up with extraneous items.

While Carney was talking, Obama skipped out of the White House with his dog, Bo. He crossed the river to Alexandria, Va., where he bought gifts at retailers Best Buy and PetSmart and stopped for a pizza lunch at the Del Ray Pizzeria.

Carney said that it’s good to get out sometimes.

As for Obama’s Christmas plans, Carney declined to say whether the president would stay in town or fly to Hawaii to be with his family, noting the “fluid” situation on the payroll tax cut.

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