House expected to return next week

House lawmakers expect to leave town Friday and return next week to deal with extending the payroll tax holiday.

Before leaving, the House will vote on a one-week continuing resolution to keep the government open after Friday, as well as on a $1 trillion nine-bill spending omnibus, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said Friday.

The Senate is expected to take up the omnibus, but a vote might not take place until Saturday or Sunday.

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The conference report is privileged, so it can be taken up without a motion to proceed, but the Senate can have unlimited debate on it unless there is cloture or unanimous consent. Aides said leaders are working to get unanimous approval — and if it comes, there will be a vote Friday.

The key stumbling block to a final deal on the payroll tax holiday is GOP language intended to pressure the Obama administration into approving the Keystone oil sands pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told GOP lawmakers during a closed-door conference Friday afternoon that he would insist that the language be included in the payroll tax measure. The Senate is expected to approve a two-month extension of the payroll tax and federal unemployment benefits, and Boehner told Republicans the House would add the Keystone language to it.

“He said we will slap Keystone right back on there,” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said.



Boehner confirmed his remarks to his conference in a brief press conference. He guaranteed that re-inserting the Keystone provisions would be one of those changes made to the Senate bill.


The two sides have been unable to agree on how to pay for a full one-year extension of the payroll tax holiday, the top year-end priority for President Obama. If the two-month extension is approved, it will ensure the divisive debate will continue into the next year.

That could suit the purposes of both parties.

Democrats want to paint a picture of a Republican Party blocking a middle-class tax hike while protecting low rates for the wealthy. They have repeatedly sought to pair the payroll tax cut with a surtax on millionaires.

Republicans are keen to keep the Keystone fight alive because they believe it highlights how Obama administration regulations and policies are blocking the private sector from creating jobs.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the Keystone issue and the payroll tax cut should be dealt with separately.

“We should be dealing with these issues on their own merits,” he said in an interview on MSNBC.

Senate leaders for a second day in a row sounded a note of progress, saying they are nearing a deal on the payroll tax extension.

“We are making real good progress — we're not there yet, but we are very, very close,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in comments on the Senate floor.

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The one-week stopgap spending measure might be necessary because paperwork on the omnibus means it will not be ready for the president to sign by midnight Friday, when government funding runs out. It could also serve as a backup if there is a last-second snag on the omnibus.

However, Reid and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Friday that there is a precedent under which the government would not shut down for 24 hours after funding runs out if only the House passes a bill.

“The administration takes the view that if the final appropriations bills pass one house this afternoon ... there will not be a shutdown,” said McConnell. “I think everybody should be assured that is not going to happen.”

A Democratic aide said there are no plans to take up the short-term measure, and that the Senate instead will move to the omnibus.

This story was posted at 10:10 a.m. and updated at 12:58 a.m.