By Alexander Bolton - 12/22/11 11:18 PM EST
Shortly after House Republicans agreed to pass a two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut, Senate leaders from both parties issued statements looking toward the next stage of the negotiations.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would soon appoint representatives to negotiate with House Republicans on a year-long extension of the payroll-tax holiday and unemployment benefits.
“I look forward to appointing members of my caucus to continue negotiations towards a year-long agreement,” Reid said in a statement late Thursday afternoon. “Two months is not a long time, and I expect the negotiators to work expeditiously to forge year-long extensions of these critical policies.”
Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had attempted to reach agreement on a year-long package but could not agree on how to offset $90 billion of the projected costs.
Democratic and Republican leaders have identified $100 billion to $120 billion in consensus cuts to pay for the proposals under consideration, which total around $200 billion.
House Republican leaders agreed Thursday to pass a slightly modified version of the two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut and unemployment benefits that the Senate passed Saturday.
Republicans in the lower chamber had insisted on passing a year-long extension, but bowed to demands from President Obama, Democratic leaders and senior members of their own party.
Senate Democrats said they did not make any concession to Boehner to put the two-month payroll-tax-cut package on a fast track for Senate and House approval.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said Reid’s staff was “happy to make the technical correction” Boehner requested, “as that concern had not been raised previously.”
The Senate needs to re-approve the two-month stopgap passage for technical reasons because House Republicans voted to send the previous legislative vehicle to a conference negotiation.
Senate leaders plan to pass the two-month payroll-tax-cut package by unanimous consent shortly after 9:30 a.m. when the upper chamber convenes for a previously scheduled pro forma session.
The unanimous consent agreement will make passage of the proposal contingent on the House sending over a bill identical to the legislation being held at the Senate desk.
“I am grateful that the voices of reason have prevailed and Speaker Boehner has agreed to pass the Senate’s bipartisan compromise,” Reid said. “Year-long extensions of the payroll-tax cut, unemployment insurance and Medicare payments for physicians has always been our goal, and Democrats will not rest until we have passed them.
“But there remain important differences between the parties on how to implement these policies, and it is critical that we protect middle-class families from a tax increase while we work them out.”
McConnell said in a news release that he was relieved House Republicans had ended their standoff with Reid, and touted legislative language expediting the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
“With today’s agreement between the Speaker and Leader Reid, working Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their taxes will not go up at the end of the year and that the President will have to finally decide on whether to move forward on a pipeline project that would create thousands of American jobs,” he said.
McConnell criticized Obama for exploiting the payroll-tax debate to score political points.
“The President’s statements castigating House Republicans have thus amounted to the kind of unhelpful political opportunism Americans are tired of,” McConnell said.
“The President seems to forget that the only reason we are even discussing an extension of temporary measures like the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance is his own failure to turn our nation’s economy around nearly three years into his administration.”
— This story was updated at 6:30 p.m.