Senate Dem leaders meet for talks with Obama on payroll tax

Democratic leaders in the Senate met with President Obama Wednesday afternoon to discuss their push to extend the employee payroll tax cut.

According to a congressional aide, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) attended the meeting at the White House.

The group met at 2:45 p.m. and broke up at 3:30. The senators left the White House without taking questions from reporters.

The leaders were expected to discuss how to move a payroll tax cut extension and a $1 trillion omnibus spending bill by the end of the year. 

The meeting comes as Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are engaged in a back-and-forth over what legislation to pass when.

The current resolution funding the government expires on Friday, and Congress has yet to act on a spending measure. The payroll tax holiday is scheduled to expire Dec. 31.

House Republicans passed an extension of the payroll tax on Tuesday but Democrats have objected to a provision that would move up the requirement for a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. Obama had put off that decision until after the election and has said he will veto the GOP package because of that.

Reid suggested a possible route to compromise Tuesday when he said he would be willing to extend the payroll tax holiday without paying for its $120 billion cost. The cost of the extension would rise to $180 billion if the tax break were expanded.

Earlier on Wednesday House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called on legislators in the Senate to pass the House measure.

Reid tried to bring it up in the Senate — knowing it was likely to fail — but was blocked by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who cited concerns about a possible government shutdown.

McConnell said Congress should first take up an omnibus spending bill to fund the government.

— Alexander Bolton contributed

This story was updated at 4:50 p.m.

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