Payroll tax extensions…or not…we may never know!

House GOP delays vote on Senate two-month payroll tax extension

By Erik Wasson, Russell Berman and Molly K. Hooper – 12/19/11 08:33 PM ET

House GOP leaders have decided to delay a vote on the Senate payroll tax bill until midday Tuesday, abandoning tentative plans to hold votes as late as 3 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The party whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), attributed the delay in the vote to the Republican pledge to not pass legislation in the middle of the night, as they had criticized House Democrats for doing. The votes on Tuesday, he said, will occur “in the light of day.”

In a rare move, the GOP leaders sought to align themselves with President Obama, saying their push for a yearlong extension was “exactly what the president asked us to do.”

House leaders also appear to be looking to avoid a separate, up-or-down vote on the Senate payroll tax bill.

House freshman are adamant in their opposition to the Senate bill and favor a year-long extension of the payroll tax holiday, but centrist Republicans  in the conference would not come out against the short term bill when asked about it after a GOP conference meeting on Monday night.

The Senate approved the measure in an overwhelming bipartisan 89-10 vote, and several Senate Republicans on Monday urged the House to approve the measure.

With Democrats planning to support the measure, Republicans cannot afford many defections on an upcoming vote.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisted the House would defeat the bill, however, and Republicans at the Monday meeting said few in any of their colleagues spoke out in favor of the two-month extension at the meeting.

One exception was Rep. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), who told The Hill, “I’m thinking about it, I really am.” Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) earlier on Monday said he would support the Senate bill.

Another possible question-mark, centrist New York Republican Rep. Peter King told The Hill that he would support the leadership’s course of action on the extenders package.

A vote just on a motion to convene a conference committee could give politically vulnerable members the wiggle room to support Boehner without entirely voting against a two-month extension of the payroll tax.

“I think we have to vote down what the Senate sent back but there is a way to do it where we are voting yes,” said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas).

House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said he could not say if his committee would consider a rule for that up-or-down vote.

House Republican leaders emerged from the closed-door meeting determined to force the Senate into a conference committee. “Our members do not want to just punt and do a two-month, short-term fix where we have to come back and do this again,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters. “We’re here. We’re willing to work.”

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said House Republicans “outright reject the attempt by the Senate to kick the can down the road for 60 days. It’s an unworkable solution.”

Boehner was pressed on why he did not warn Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) that the compromise he struck with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would not fly with the House GOP.

“I made it clear to Senator Reid and Senator McConnell that the House was not going to enter into negotiations until such time as the Senate did its job,” Boehner said. “It was time for the Senate to produce something. We disagreed with what the Senate produced.”

He did not answer directly when asked if McConnell had struck “a bad deal.”

“They did their job. They produced a bill. The House disagrees with it,” the Speaker said.

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