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Boehner says payroll-tax bill won’t add jobs
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) — A compromise bill extending a payroll-tax cut and jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed should be enacted, but it’s not going to help the economy very much, House Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday.
Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, made the remarks hours after bipartisan congressional bargainers announced agreement on legislation extending those provisions through 2012 and heading off a steep cut in reimbursements for physicians who treat Medicare patients.
The bill would assure a continued tax cut for 160 million workers and jobless benefits for several million others, delivering top election-year priorities to President Obama and edging a white-hot political battle a big step closer to resolution.
Mr. Boehner told reporters the accord is “a fair agreement and one that I support.”
But he said an issue over legislative language remains unresolved — he did not reveal what it is — and did not say if Congress would vote on the pact by Friday. That has been congressional leaders’ goal.
In a jab at Mr. Obama, Mr. Boehner minimized the impact the measure would have. Last fall, Mr. Obama proposed extending the payroll-tax cut and added jobless benefits through this year as major pillars of his program for creating jobs.
“Let’s face it, this is an economic relief package, not a bill that is going to grow the economy and create jobs,” Mr. Boehner said.
The speaker’s comment underscored the GOP’s desire to limit Mr. Obama’s ability to declare victory over the legislation. The fight over the payroll-tax cut and jobless benefits has been waged since late last year and has taken a political toll on Republicans.
Both proposals initially ran into GOP resistance, some of which lingers. But Republicans largely have concluded it would be damaging to oppose the package, particularly in this presidential and congressional election year.
That position contrasted with their attitude in December, when House Republicans refused to back a bipartisan Senate bill providing a two-month extension of the tax cuts and jobless benefits while bargainers completed a yearlong deal. Within days, they retreated under barrages of criticism from Republicans and conservatives around the country.
Illustrating their reluctance to be seen as blocking a middle-class tax cut, House Republicans removed the major hurdle to the legislation earlier this week when they agreed that the payroll-tax cut — making up about two-thirds of the measure’s cost — would not have to be paid for with spending cuts.
“I don’t think the American people can wait another day,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, told reporters.
Mrs. Pelosi said that while Democrats were hoping parts of the roughly $150 billion measure could be paid for with savings from winding down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “I don’t see a scenario where our members would vote against it.”
The two lead negotiators, Rep. David Camp, Michigan Republican, and Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, said shortly after midnight that they had reached agreement and that only technical issues and the drafting of legislative language remained.
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
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