Politics & Government

McConnell urges short-term and long-term extension of payroll tax cuts

WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell broke a nearly weeklong silence Thursday and urged the GOP-led House to pass a short-term renewal of payroll tax cuts that would avert a 2 percentage point tax increase in the new year for 160 million workers.

McConnell, attempting to end a standoff between House Republicans and the Democratic-controlled Senate, also urged the Senate to agree to discuss a more permanent solution sought by House Republicans.

"There is no reason why Congress and the president cannot accomplish all of these things before the end of the year," McConnell said. "House Republicans sensibly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms. These goals are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both."

Shortly after McConnell issued his call for cooperation Thursday, Boehner appeared to double down.

"Yesterday, I spoke with President Obama. I urged him to call on Senator Reid to work with us to finish this bill that will provide for one year of tax relief for American workers," Boehner said in a statement. "I told the president there's one big reason why we need to do a full-year, and that's jobs."

McConnell's statement followed a week of tense back-and-forth in the House when many Republican members in that chamber balked at supporting compromise legislation, authored in part by the Kentucky Republican.

House Republicans were opposed to the plan. "It's pretty clear that I and our members oppose the Senate bill," Boehner, R-Ohio, told NBC's Meet the Press.

Republicans, he said, want a longer-term fix.

Boehner was reflecting the view of many House Republicans, who complained loudly in a conference call about the deal hours after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure on Saturday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, reacted angrily.

"Instead of threatening middle-class families with a thousand-dollar tax hike, Speaker Boehner should bring up the bipartisan compromise that (Republican Senate Leader Mitch) McConnell and I negotiated, and which passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority of Democratic and Republican votes," Reid said. "I would hate to think that Speaker Boehner is refusing to act on this bipartisan compromise because he is afraid it will actually pass, but I cannot imagine any other reason why he would not bring it up for a vote."