By Stephen Dinan-The Washington Times
House Republicans voted Tuesday to give PresidentÂ ObamaÂ the payroll-tax-cut extension he desperately wants, but only if he accepts major changes to unemployment benefits and speeds up a decision on building theÂ Keystone XL pipeline, which the administration has sought to delay until after the 2012 election.
The 234-193 vote came just hours after theÂ White HouseÂ saidÂ Mr. ObamaÂ would veto the bill if it reached his desk, rejecting theÂ GOPâ€™s proposed spending cuts and instead insisting the bill include the tax increases on the wealthy that he has made the centerpiece of his re-election campaign.
Complicating matters, Republicans accusedÂ SenateÂ Democrats of holding a massive year-end spending bill hostage to the tax negotiations. With existing funding slated to run out on Friday, the stalemate risks yet another partial government shutdown – the third time this year lawmakers have pushed to the brink.
â€œThe Democrats who run Washington have a responsibility to act,â€ House SpeakerÂ John A. BoehnerÂ said after the House vote. â€œTheÂ SenateÂ can take up our bill and amend it, or it can pass its own bill. But the Democrats who run theÂ SenateÂ canâ€™t continue to shirk their responsibility to govern.â€
CongressÂ is racing against several deadlines in addition to spending. UnlessÂ CongressÂ acts, extended unemployment benefits run out at the end of this year, the 2-percentage-point payroll tax cut expires, and doctors would see a 27 percent cut in payments for treatingÂ Medicarepatients.
â€œThis is not a time for Washington Republicans to score political points against the president,â€Â White HouseÂ press secretaryÂ Jay CarneyÂ said after the House vote. â€œCongressÂ should not finish their business before finishing the business of the American people. They cannot go on vacation before agreeing to prevent a tax hike on 160 million Americans and extending unemployment insurance.â€
Overall, Republicans say theyâ€™ve tried to giveÂ Mr. ObamaÂ everything he wants: an extension of the payroll tax cut into next year, another round of unemployment benefits – albeit at lower levels than Democrats hoped – and another round of the so-called â€œdoc fixâ€ that waives the 1997 budget law that tried to control costs by imposing ever-decreasing payments to doctors who treatÂ MedicareÂ patients.
In exchange, theÂ GOPÂ said it wanted to force the administration to make a decision on the pipeline, which would carry oil derived from Canadaâ€™s tar sands into the U.S.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/dec/13/gop-ties-payroll-tax-to-oil-pipeline/
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