Senate Republicans call on House to pass payroll tax extension

A trio of Senate Republicans on Monday strongly urged House Republicans to embrace the payroll tax cut extension bill passed in the Senate over the weekend. 

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) joined Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in calling for the House GOP to back the two-month extension, which overwhelmingly passed the Senate by a vote of 89-10 on Saturday. All three senators are up for reelection in 2012.

"There is no question we need to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance for the entire year," Heller said in a statement. "The American people deserve long-term, forward-thinking policies. However, there is no reason to hold up the short-term extension while a more comprehensive deal is being worked out." 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Sunday that the measure negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was unpopular with rank-and-file House Republicans. Boehner predicted on Monday that the House would vote the bill down and instead move for a conference committee to reconcile the Senate's two-month tax cut with a yearlong extension passed earlier by the House.

However, Reid rejected demands to renegotiate the bipartisan deal unless House Republicans first approved the Senate bill.

Heller joined Brown and Lugar on Monday in calling for the House to back the Senate's compromise bill. Lugar said he hoped House members would join most members of the Senate and pass the bill. 

"I'm hopeful there are a majority of Republicans and Democrats today who will proceed, because it seems to me this is best for the country, as well as for all the individuals who are affected," Lugar said Monday on MSNBC.

Sen. Brown, who faces a difficult reelection campaign this year in deep-blue Massachusetts, said, "the House Republicans’ plan to scuttle the deal to help middle-class families is irresponsible and wrong," in a statement released Monday. 

Heller said partisanship fueled the holdup.

"What is playing out in Washington, D.C., this week is about political leverage, not about what’s good for the American people. Congress can work out a solution without stopping the payroll tax cut extension for the middle class, jeopardizing seniors’ access to health care, or threatening unemployment insurance,” Heller said.

House Republicans have said that they would prefer a yearlong tax extension. Likewise, President Obama and other Democrats prefer a yearlong extension. But legislators agreed on the shorter extension when talks for the longer tax holiday stalled.

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