Rep. Jackson Lee: Obama should use executive power to extend payroll tax cut

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said Tuesday that President Obama "absolutely" should use his executive power to continue the unemployment benefits and payroll tax cut extension and said she hoped to discuss the option with the White House later in the day.

"It is extraordinary, don't get me wrong. But I'm feeling the pain of the constituents I left [at] home," Jackson Lee said, speaking on the progressive Ed Schultz's radio show. "I consider this a crisis. I consider leaving Americans without unemployment insurance for January and February a crime. I consider not extending the payroll tax cut ... a crime."

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Jackson Lee slammed the move by House Republicans to call for a House-Senate conference as a "ridiculous procedural calamity."

House Republicans called for a vote on the motion Tuesday, which passed without any Democrat votes.

"This is what got thrown in our face, not even the right to regular order," Jackson Lee said, blasting House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for not bringing to a House vote a Senate-passed bill that would have extended the payroll tax cut for two months.

"I hope Speaker Boehner will put aside the special-interest shackles, the backsliding, backstepping of his caucus," she said.

The ongoing battle over the payroll tax cut extension has kept President Obama in Washington over his planned Christmas break, and he has urged Congress to keep working until the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits — both set to expire at the end of the year — have been extended. The president cannot unilaterally extend the tax break without the approval of lawmakers.

“The current payroll tax cut expires at the end of this year, and extending it requires an act of Congress," White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage told The Hill. "That’s why the President continues to urge House Republicans to pass the two month bipartisan compromise to ensure that taxes don’t go up by an average of $1000 on 160 million Americans in 11 days.”

The Senate adjourned after passing its version of the payroll tax bill, apparently expecting its approval in the House. However, Boehner rejected the two-month extension as "kicking the can down the road."

Boehner has called on Obama to urge the Senate to return and appoint negotiators so that the House and Senate can pass a one-year long extension of the tax break.

Updated at 7:37 p.m.


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