Obama calls Boehner, urges him to allow vote on Senate payroll tax cut bill

President Obama called Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday and urged him to allow a vote on the two-month payroll tax extension, calling it "the only option" to ensure taxes don't go up.

In a phone call made late Wednesday morning, Obama urged Boehner to take up the Senate's bill, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

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In the call, Obama told the Speaker he was committed to working with Congress on extending the payroll tax for the entire year. He also reminded Boehner that "the short-term bipartisan compromise passed by almost the entire Senate is the only option to ensure that middle-class families aren't hit with a tax hike in 10 days and gives both sides the time needed to work out a full-year solution," according to a White House readout.

Boehner, however, urged Obama to call on Senate Democrats to appoint negotiators to a conference committee and said Republicans remain in Washington and are “ready to work," according to a readout provided by an aide to the Speaker.

“Let’s get this done today,” the Speaker told the president, the aide said.


Boehner reminded Obama that the House was the only body “that had done what he asked for by providing a full year of payroll tax relief and extended unemployment benefits.”

“He urged the President to call on Senator Reid to appoint negotiators so that we can produce a full-year bill by the end of the year that provides a tax cut of $1,000 rather than only $166,” the aide said. “The Speaker told the president that his conference was elected to change the way Washington does business and that we should not waste the next ten days simply because it is an inconvenient time of year.”

The differences between the House GOP and the Senate, Boehner told the president, “are not so great that we cannot pass a full-year bill by December 31st,” the aide said.

Responding to Boehner's remarks on the call, which became public in the middle of the daily press briefing, Carney stood his ground and restated the administration's position saying the "opportunity" to pass the Senate legislation "is there."

"Just take it," Carney said. The spokesman added that the "sudden insistence" by the Speaker to pass a one-year extension "doesn't ring true."

Asked if there was a stalemate happening, Carney replied, "There is a stalemate in that the speaker will not act."

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) chimed in late in the day, rifling off a letter to Boehner urging him and the GOP conference “not to walk away from the American people again.”

“There is still time to call the House back and pass the short-term extension bill that received 89 bipartisan votes in the U.S. Senate,” Pelosi wrote. “I am hopeful that reason will prevail in your conference and that we can secure a bipartisan, long-term bill after the first of the year.”

Obama also called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) earlier Wednesday and "applauded" him for reaching the bipartisan compromise with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Carney said.

In that conversation, Reid "reaffirmed his commitment to secure a bipartisan yearlong tax cut after the House passes the two-month extension," according to the White House readout.

"The ball is in the House's court," Carney said, adding that they should "do the right thing and pass the bipartisan compromise."

"They should just get it done," Carney said.

Asked about Obama's plans to join his family in Hawaii, Carney said, "I don't have any scheduling updates to give you."

Obama left the White House Wednesday afternoon for a shopping trip in Northern Virginia.

At the same time, Carney said that there would not be any more negotiating done. Obama "made clear" to Boehner that the House needs to take up the Senate bill.

"The negotiating has happened already," Carney said. "It is not at all the case that the president is saying, 'Here's what I want, and do it.' "

— Russell Berman contributed.

— This story was last updated at 3:58 p.m.