The Washington Times - December 9, 2011, 01:51PM

President Obama had a two-word non-answer Friday for reporters who asked his opinion of a new payroll tax-cut bill introduced by House Republicans: “Merry Christmas.”

Mr. Obama was walking at mid-day from the White House across Pennsylvania Avenue to a Christmas party at Blair House when pool reporters shouted out the question. The party is for staff of the White House National Security Council.

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House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, introduced a new version of legislation Friday to extend payroll tax cuts for 160 million Americans on Jan. 1. It would include an expedited approval of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, a feature that Mr. Obama has vowed to reject. House Republicans would pay for the tax cuts by trimming government spending.

Senate Democrats are focused on paying for the tax cuts with a surtax on annual incomes exceeding $1 million.

As the two sides appear no closer to compromise, Mr. Obama has said he would delay his 17-day Christmas vacation in Hawaii to stay in Washington while Congress works on a deal. He is also insisting on an extension of unemployment benefits as part of the overall package.