WASHINGTON (Reuters) – House Speaker John Boehner threw into doubt the fate of a popular tax break for workers on Sunday, saying he and his fellow House Republicans oppose the two-month extension backed by the Senate and want something longer passed before the holiday break.
Boehner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program he wants a one-year extension of the reduced rate for U.S. payroll tax paid by workers to fund Social Security.
“It’s pretty clear that I and our members oppose the Senate bill. It’s only for two months,” Boehner said, adding this was “kicking the can down the road.”
The Senate passed a two-month extension on Saturday but Boehner said he wanted to work out differences with the Senate before the end of the year, when the tax cut expires.
The biggest sticking point for a year-long extension is how to cover the $120 billion in lost revenue. Republicans are demanding spending cuts to cover the cost and Democrats want to pay for it by closing some tax breaks for the wealthy.
Boehner said Congress should stay in Washington and pass the longer extension before going home for the holiday break.
Beyond a one-year extension, Boehner said House Republicans are demanding reforms to the federal unemployment insurance program to cut the number of weeks for benefits – measures largely opposed by Democrats.
The package also includes a provision to avert a pay cut for doctors treating the elderly on the Medicare healthcare program.
“How can you do tax policy for two months?” Boehner said. “We really do believe it’s time for the Senate to work with the House to complete our business for the year. We’ve got two weeks to get this done. Let’s do it the right way.”
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, says the lower 4.2 percent payroll tax rate will help boost economic growth. Without congressional action, the rate on the tax workers pay into the Social Security retirement fund will snap back to 6.2 percent.
White House economic adviser Gene Sperling was more optimistic about the prospects for the Senate-passed shorter extension.
“I really think it is very unlikely that the House would disrupt this compromise … six days before Christmas,” Sperling said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday.
(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by John O’Callaghan)
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