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McConnell Breaks Silence With Payroll Compromise Offer

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today offered a potential resolution to the weeklong stalemate over the expiring payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits, calling on the House to pass the short-term deal and the Senate to appoint conferees for the longer-term deal.

McConnell has largely kept mum since the Senate’s Saturday vote to pass a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and the subsequent House GOP refusal to take up and pass the Senate-brokered bipartisan compromise.

McConnell’s offer appears to be an attempt to give House Republicans a face-saving resolution to the impasse, given his House counterparts have been hammered by House and Senate Democrats, rank-and-file Senate Republicans and even some national media outlets for refusing to even bring the two-month bill to the floor.

Instead Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), at the urging of his caucus, opted to appoint conferees and pursue “regular order” to reconcile the two bills, with just days left on the 2011 calendar and most Members out of town.

Today, McConnell proclaimed that neither position was “mutually exclusive.”

“The House and Senate have both passed bipartisan bills to require the President to quickly make a decision on whether to support thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs through the Keystone XL pipeline, and to extend unemployment insurance, the temporary payroll tax cut and seniors’ access to medical care. There is no reason why Congress and the President cannot accomplish all of these things before the end of the year,” McConnell said in a statement. “House Republicans sensibly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms. These goals are not mutually exclusive.”

Though it was not immediately clear whether there is precedent to conference legislation that already has been passed, by demanding Reid appoint conferees anyway, McConnell gives cover to Boehner while acknowledging that negotiations on a yearlong extension would have to start in earnest in January anyway to work out a long-term deal.

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