House speaker opposes payroll tax compromise
The speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives has said the Republican House majority will oppose a bipartisan compromise bill, which Montana's senior senator helped craft, though the bill passed the Senate Saturday 89-10. The bill would extend payroll tax cuts and long-term unemployment benefits for two months and included a requirement on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said this morning in a press conference in Washington that the two-month extension is unacceptable, and the two houses of Congress need to work out the differences on the issues.
"A two-month extension creates uncertainty and will cause problems for people trying to create jobs, " Boehner said this morning.
Boehner first said he opposed the bill when he appeared Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press. "
The Senate bill, which Sen. Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, helped write, also included a provision to require President Barack Obama to make a decision within days on issuing a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transmit oil from Alberta through Montana en route to Texas.
Baucus said this morning that the House needs to approve the compromise bill today.
"Montana jobs can't continue to wait in limbo while a decision on the Keystone pipeline is kicked further and further down the road, and Montana families can't afford to see a dip in their paychecks January 1st. We can't afford not to pass this compromise. "
Montana's Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg — who is facing Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in next year's Senate election — sponsored a bill requiring the 60-day Keystone decision that was added to the House payroll tax cut extension, along with other issues, that the House passed last week.
Rehberg this morning praised including the Keystone issue on the payroll tax bill, but said the tax cut extension needs to be for a year.
"I'm glad the Senate finally recognized the importance of moving forward on my Keystone pipeline legislation, " Rehberg said. "The American people are tired of political delays blocking good private sector job creation. The president and his Senate allies used every trick in the book to put these jobs off to appease extremist groups like the League of Conservation Voters, but it looks like common-sense may still prevail. "
Rehberg had not responded by deadline this morning to a question asking how he planned to vote on the Senate bill this afternoon, but said the extension needs to be for a full year.
"As I travel throughout the state, what Montanans tell me they need most is economic certainty, " he said. "The Senate has made a habit of delaying long-term solutions for job creation for the sake of political gain. If a two-month extension of payroll tax relief can pass the Senate, there is no reason a year-long extension which provides the necessary certainty shouldn't reach the president's desk as soon as possible. "
Obama, who previously said he would veto any bill tying Keystone or other issues to the payrol tax cut, had not commented by this morning on that being in the Senate version.
Obama's spokesman, Dan Pfeiffer, said Sunday that the president is calling on the House to pass the Senate bill, and to work to extend the tax cut to a full year after Christmas.
"After months of opposition, we are glad that Republicans were finally showing a willingness to not raise taxes on middle class families, " Pfeiffer said. "As the president said yesterday, it is inexcusable to do anything less than extend this tax cut for the entire year, and Congress must work on a one year deal. But they should pass the two-month extension now to avoid a devastating tax hike from hitting the middle class in just 13 days. It's time House Republicans stop playing politics and get the job done for the American people. "
Both Tester and Baucus called on the House and the president to pass the Senate bill.
"It's time to put Montanans to work on the Keystone pipeline and that's why I pushed my colleagues to include this critical infrastructure project in this package, " Baucus said in a release Saturday. "We've done enough analysis and worked hard on strict environmental considerations — now it's time to move forward on the jobs we need and the energy security our nation deserves.
"This payroll tax cut will make sure Montana workers don't see a dip in their paychecks in January while we continue fighting for an even longer extension, " he added. "The timing is critical for Montana families who need some extra money in their pockets so they can spend more at Montana businesses and support more jobs in our state. "
Tester said in a release Saturday that passing the legislation is the "responsible" thing to do.
"Montana needs the Keystone XL project to begin now because it will create jobs and energy security. With stronger protections for private property, it's time to move this ball forward, and I will remain vigilant that the highest safety and environmental standards are respected, " Tester said. "The president should not veto this bipartisan bill, and he should allow this pipeline to move forward.
"I support Keystone XL because I support Montana jobs, " Tester added. "Whether in eastern Montana with the Keystone Pipeline or western Montana with the popular Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, Montana's delegation should be united in pushing for guaranteed jobs. It's the responsible thing to do. "