- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Senate’s top Republican said Sunday he is confident Congress will pass an extension of the expiring payroll-tax break, and wouldn’t rule out increases in taxes elsewhere to help pay for it.

“There’s broad agreement on doing the payroll-tax holiday through the end of the year. Republicans, Democrats agree on that,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

But when asked by moderator Candy Crowley whether he would flatly rule out any kind of tax increase to pay for the benefit, Mr. McConnell wouldn’t commit, saying he was “not going to negotiate this agreement with you this morning.”

Mr. McConnnell instead pinned the blame for the as-yet-unresolved payroll-tax negotiations on congressional Democrats because “they just don’t want to cut any spending.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner also said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” he is “confident that we’ll be able to resolve this fairly quickly.” The Ohio Republican added the GOP-controlled House already passed a year-long payroll-tax break extension in December, though the measure was rejected by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The main sticking point is how to pay for the 2 percentage point cut in Social Security payroll taxes. The tax cut allows a worker earning $50,000 to keep about an extra $20 a week.

Mr. McConnell also accused the Obama administration of playing loose with taxpayer funds, saying it “wants to take somebody else’s money, particularly people who’ve been successful, and squander it on things like Solyndra,” referring to the solar-panel maker that went bankrupt last fall just two years after winning more than a half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees.

“We now have a debt the size of our economy. We look a lot like Greece. We’re heading toward Western Europe. If you want to see what happens, just look across the Atlantic. That’s the direction we’re headed in,” Mr. McConnell said.

The payroll-tax cut initially was set up at the end of 2010 as a one-year deal. Lawmakers worked to extend the tax holiday for another year during the closing weeks of 2011 but couldn’t reached a deal, instead agreeing to a two-month stopgap that expires at the end of February. A 20-member bipartisan, bicameral committee is negotiating an extension through the rest of 2012.

The pending tax-cut package likely would include a provision to extend employment benefits for the long-term jobless yet again, as well as grant full payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. Under the terms of a 1997 budget deal, those doctor payments were scheduled to be cut 27 percent.