Reid warns GOP on payroll tax fight

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned Republicans Thursday they will be forced to vote multiple times on extending the payroll tax holiday if a Senate-House conference deadlocks on the issue.

Democrats are skeptical that Republicans want to extend the payroll tax rate, which affects an estimated 160 million Americans, because of dismissive statements several House GOP conferees have made.

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Reid vowed to force Republicans to vote against extending the holiday if negotiators miss their Feb. 29 deadline.

“I want everyone to be put on notice that we’re not going to walk away from this without having some serious votes. If they’re unwilling to do something on a bipartisan basis, then we’re going to do something to move the bill forward,” Reid said.

“We cannot let the economy to be hurt,” Reid said.

He said the pending expiration of unemployment benefits and a freeze in scheduled cuts to doctors’ payments are two other issues that must be resolved.

“We have people out there in Nevada and around the country who are desperate for these checks they get from the unemployment benefits. And of course we have seniors who are very, very adverse to losing their doctors,” he added.

Senate and House negotiators remain split over how to pay for a 10-month extension of the payroll tax holiday, unemployment benefits and the doctors’ fix. They cannot agree on how to fund about $90 billion of the package’s cost.

Republicans in the talks are also pushing reforms of unemployment assistance, including drug testing, which Democrats have rejected. 

“I hope we get the work done, if not we’ll have some legislation they’ll have to vote on,” Reid said.