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Tuesday
Dec132011

House Poised to Extend Payroll Tax Cut, but Shutdown Looms

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As the House prepares to vote on the GOP’s Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act on Tuesday, the prospect for another government shutdown is quickly brewing as Congress works to conclude its mandatory business before heading home for the holidays.

House Speaker John Boehner says that appropriators from both parties in both chambers have agreed to terms on a so-called “megabus” -- seven outstanding appropriations bills bundled together to fund government through the end of the fiscal year. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is preventing the conference report from moving forward until a deal is struck on the payroll tax cut extension and unemployment insurance.

“They’ve smiled at each other, they’ve shook hands, and it’s done,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “I’m hopeful that the Senate leaders will come to their senses, allow members to sign this report, and move forward. There is no reason to hold this bill up.”

Leaders from both parties concede the megabus is nearly finished, but the spending bill might be the only leverage left for Reid as he pushes for clean extensions to the payroll tax credit and unemployment insurance.

House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling said that “the American people want jobs” and Reid should get out of the way and into the Christmas spirit.

The House is expected to pass the GOP’s legislation, which the president has threatened to veto. The package extends the payroll tax credit, reforms and extends unemployment insurance, and includes the sustainable growth rate Doc-Fix. Even though the three items are top priorities for President Obama, most Democrats are expected to reject the bill because it includes a provision accelerating the president’s decision whether to move ahead on the Keystone XL Pipeline within 60 days of passage.

The Democratic leadership is whipping its members to oppose the bill, but with some moderate Democrats indicating they’ll support the bill, Boehner predicted that it, “will pass with bipartisan support.”

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the Democrat’s No. 2 leader in the House, told reporters Tuesday that the inclusion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in the bill “undermines any ability to come to a bipartisan agreement.”

Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that even though the measure “is not our dream proposal,” if the president really does want to keep taxes low for the middle class, “I just would hope that his rhetoric begins to match reality here.”

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