(WASHINGTON) -- While the conference negotiators tasked with extending three economic priorities through the end of 2012 grapple with “pay-fors” to offset spending, leaders from both political parties warned on Tuesday that the conferees could be headed for another deadlock.
The conference committee has nine days before it is expected to report back to Congress.
“We have significant concerns about whether Senate Democrats are really willing to step up and work with House Republicans on the payroll tax cut bill,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. ”We’ve been in conference trying to work out our differences, but what’s pretty clear is that Senate Democrats have never come to the table with a plan to offset this new spending that they’re all for.”
The 20-member, bipartisan, bicameral panel is working to extend the payroll tax credit through the end of the year, reform and extend unemployment insurance and also enact a so-called Doc Fix for physicians treating Medicare patients.
The conference committee held its fourth public meeting on Tuesday, deliberating for almost two-and-a-half hours over spending cuts and new revenue to cover the $150 billion to $160 billion price tag of the extensions.
Republicans and Democrats alike recognized that time is running out on negotiators to come up with a deal that both chambers of Congress can pass before the Feb. 29 deadline. The committee has targeted Feb. 17 as the day to complete its work so that both bodies have enough time to pass the bill.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the top Democrat participating in the negotiations, said he believes the committee is “making real progress” and he hopes it can reach an agreement soon.
“We don’t have time,” Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance committee, said. “In fact I think we have less time than we think we have. By that I mean I think we have to wrap this up…in a matter of days, and I would urge us to be thinking of ways that we could compromise.”
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