Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
WASHINGTONâ€”Senate defeat of competing Democratic and Republican plans to extend a cut in the Social Security payroll tax has punted the issue to the House, where GOP leaders are facing ideological divisions within the party over whether to pass the tax holiday.
The focus is on the GOP-controlled House after Senate votes Thursday exposed wide reluctance by Republicans to go along with the costly proposal — a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s jobs agenda.
As expected, Senate Republicans defeated Obama’s plan to extend the payroll tax cut through the end of next year while also making it more generous for workers.
But in a vote that exposed rare divisions among Senate Republicans, more than two dozen of the GOP’s 47 lawmakers also voted to kill an alternative plan backed by their leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to renew an existing 2 percentage point payroll tax cut.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans weren’t planning on negotiating with Democrats before unveiling a payroll tax cut plan — and the spending cuts to pay for it — next week. But the Senate vote would seem to indicate that House Republicans will be hard-pressed to muscle a payroll tax cut through without Democratic support. And those votes could be hard to come by if the GOP plan contains spending cuts Democrats dislike.
Many Republicans and even some Democrats say the payroll tax cut hasn’t worked to boost jobs and is too costly with the deficit requiring the government to borrow 36 cents of every dollar it spends.
“I can’t find many people who even know that they’re getting it, OK?” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who opposed both plans. “So with that being said, we’re going to double down on something that we thought should have worked that didn’t work.”
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said after Thursday night’s vote that previous tax rebates “stimulated little and increased the debt a lot” and that it would be better to simply cut spending than turn around and use spending cuts on stimulus-style tax cuts.
The defeat of the competing Senate plans came as Boehner said for the first time that renewing the payroll tax cut would boost the lagging economy. Boehner also promised compromise on a renewal of long-term jobless benefits through the end of 2012.
The payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits are at the center of a costly, politically-charged year-end agenda in which Democrats seem poised to prevail in renewing a tax cut that many Republicans back only reluctantly. But Republicans are insisting — in a switch from last year — that the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits be paid for by cutting spending.
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