By Russell Berman - 11/30/11 04:57 PM EST
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that Republicans support extending the payroll-tax cut but that “there’s no debate” about whether the measure should be paid for.
“We’re going to continue to seek common ground on this issue,” Boehner told reporters after a House GOP conference meeting. “There’s no debate, though, on whether these extensions ought to be paid for. The president’s called for them to be paid for, Democrats here have called for them to be paid for and so if in fact we can find common ground on these extensions, I think you can take to the bank that they will be paid for.”
Cantor told members that “taxes are a Republican issue and you aren’t a Republican if you want to raise taxes on struggling families to fund bigger government,” according to a source in the room.
The push comes as President Obama and Democratic leaders have been pressuring the GOP to back an extension of the payroll-tax cut, which was part of the president’s jobs plan.
On Tuesday, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), also voiced support for paying for the extension, but the two parties are at odds over how to do so. Senate Democrats want to offset the cost with a tax increase on the wealthy, which Republicans have rejected out of hand.
The Senate Democratic package, which calls for expanding the payroll-tax cut, would cost about $265 billion. The initial one-year payroll-tax holiday cost about $110 billion for 2011.
Boehner did not say what offsets the GOP would propose, but House and Senate Republicans are expected to announce similar plans soon. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has said he does not believe extending the tax cut needs to be offset.
House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) told The Hill that “a number of options” for paying for the payroll-tax cut were discussed in the deficit-reduction supercommittee, of which he was a co-chairman.
“That work is being taken to the Speaker and the leader, and we’re discussing some of those options as well as others,” he said, without revealing the possibilities.
He also said Republicans want an extension of unemployment benefits to be paid for. Hoyer said Democrats do not believe they need to be, because offsetting spending cuts would counteract the stimulative nature of the measure.
Boehner also weighed in on the supercommittee’s failure. He expressed support for the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts triggered by the failure, but he signaled that he is open to finding other cuts. Republicans and some Democrats have warned against the steep military reductions that are called for.
“Understand this: There’s going to be $1.2 trillion of further cuts to meet our commitment, and I think having the sequester in place to ensure that we’re going to get our spending problem under control is a good thing,” Boehner said. “But I would prefer, and I think all of our members would prefer, that we do this in a more responsible way.”
— This story was updated at 1 p.m.