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House Could Still Vote Friday On Payroll Tax Deal

Speaker John Boehner this morning declined to rule out bringing a payroll tax compromise to the House floor on Friday, despite the fact that doing so could violate the chamber’s three-day rule.

When asked whether he would waive the rule, the Ohio Republican said there are still “technical issues” that need to be worked out before the bill can be finalized.

“First we’ve got to have a bill filed. There’s a technical issue, a drafting issue, that is trying to be resolved,” he said. “But we’re working with Members on both sides of the aisle to talk about how best to move forward.”

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the co-chairmen of the conference committee, announced a deal on Wednesday night but sent the conferees home before they could sign the deal because of the unspecified technical issue.

It is still unclear what the issue is, but a Senate Democratic aide said it has been solved and conferees hope to sign the measure as early as this afternoon.

Boehner said he supports the bill — calling it is a “fair agreement” — but he noted he is unhappy that such a bill had to be considered in the first place.

“This is an economic relief package, because the president’s policies have not only failed, they have made the economy worse,” he said. “I am not going to allow Democrats in the Senate to … cause an increase for 160 million Americans.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, speaking to reporters just before Boehner, said she hoped the House would vote on an agreement soon.

“I think it would be good to bring it up tomorrow because I don’t think the American people can wait another day. We can’t have this be in doubt,” the California Democrat told reporters during her weekly press conference.

The deal hit a snag Wednesday night when conferees Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) teamed up with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to push for changes to a provision in the bill that would raise the cost of federal workers’ pensions. Aides said a deal has been reached to only raise pension costs on new federal employees, grandfathering in current workers.

Cardin’s support, in particular, was crucial because Senate Republican conferees are expected to oppose the agreement. A majority of the conferees in both chambers must sign a conference report for it to move to the floor in either chamber.

Questions still linger about which conferees will sign the report once it is released. Senate Republicans balked because they say they were cut out of the talks. But when asked, Boehner downplayed their concerns.

“There were two or three public meetings where they were present, so for someone to say that they weren’t involved, it really would surprise me,” Boehner said.

The Senate GOP’s reluctance to embrace the deal gave Maryland lawmakers an outsized influence, and Pelosi lauded them for trying to roll back the pension measure. She said she does not support asking federal workers to pay more to offset the deficit. Still, Pelosi said she didn’t think the pay-for issue would be enough to prevent Democrats from voting for the potential agreement.

“As we go through these last hours, I hope that we can prevail and say instead of harming one set of workers in order to help another set of workers, why can’t we just use our war savings to help cover that?… But I don’t see a scenario where our Members will vote against it,” she said.

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