- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2011

In a very public retreat, House Republican leaders late Thursday agreed to a two-month extension of payroll-tax cuts, a move that will prevent Social Security taxes from rising on millions of workers Jan. 1.

“Middle-class families and small businesses are struggling and they’re making sacrifices,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, the Ohio Republican whose troops had been holding out for a one-year extension of the tax relief. “I think this agreement will help our economy.”

The deal, approved by the Senate last weekend, also provides for an extension of unemployment benefits, for a speedier decision by the Obama administration on a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline, and for renewed Medicare reimbursements for doctors.

“With today’s agreement between the speaker and leader Reid, working Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their taxes will not go up at the end of the year and that the president will have to finally decide on whether to move forward on a pipeline project that would create thousands of American jobs,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

The House is expected to vote on the agreement Friday by a procedure called “unanimous consent,” which presumes that none of Mr. Boehner’s restive conservative lawmakers will object to it.

Asked whether he had received assurances in a conference call late Thursday that no Republican lawmakers would object, Mr. Boehner replied, “I don’t know that, but our goal is to do that by unanimous consent.”

President Obama, who had been pressuring House Republicans to accept the deal, hailed the development.

“This is good news, just in time for the holidays,” Mr. Obama said. “This is the right thing to do to strengthen our families, grow our economy and create new jobs. This is real money that will make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, called the development “a victory for middle-class taxpayers over tea party politics.”

“Even though this tax cut is only temporary, this breakthrough could have an enduring impact if it helps tame the faction of House Republicans that habitually tends toward brinksmanship,” Mr. Schumer said. “We now turn our attention to extending this tax cut for a full year, and we urge our Republican colleagues to seek common ground with us on how best to pay for it.”

Mr. Boehner’s announcement appeared to end a nasty partisan stalemate that had persisted since Saturday, when the Senate voted in bipartisan fashion for the short-term extension. House Republicans immediately served notice that they would not go along with the two-month deal, saying it would create uncertainty for businesses.

On Tuesday, House Republicans voted to go into negotiations with the Senate over the payroll tax. But with the Senate already having left town for the holiday break, Mr. Reid said he wouldn’t consider a deal until the House passes a short-term measure to give all sides more time to talk.

Democrats then portrayed House Republicans as the opponents of tax cuts, and they appeared to be helped in that effort by Mr. McConnell, who urged his House colleagues Thursday to accept the two-month agreement.

“The House should pass an extension that [EnLeader] prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement.

After five days of partisan pounding by Democrats, Mr. Boehner held a conference call with his caucus about 5 p.m. Thursday. Unlike Saturday, when the speaker solicited opinions from Republican lawmakers, this time Mr. Boehner reportedly informed his troops that he had agreed to the deal offered by Mr. Reid.

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