Obama threatens veto of House tax bill

President Obama on Tuesday threatened to veto the payroll-tax-cut package put forward by House Republicans. 

The formal veto threat did not mention a provision in the legislation that would expedite a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, but it did state that Republicans should stop trying to score political points on the tax-cut bill. 

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“With only days left before taxes go up for 160 million hardworking Americans, H.R. 3630 plays politics at the expense of middle-class families,” the administration said in its statement of policy. “This debate should not be about scoring political points. This debate should be about cutting taxes for the middle class.

“If the president were presented with H.R. 3630, he would veto the bill.”

The House could vote as early as Tuesday afternoon on the tax bill, which also extends and reforms unemployment insurance benefits, averts cuts to physician payments under Medicare and delays implementation of environmental regulations on industrial boilers.

House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office said the veto threat "amounts to legislative malpractice" since it is based on "fictitious" reasoning.

The GOP is criticizing the White House for saying the deal would "inevitably lead to pressure to cut investments in areas like education and clean energy," a contention Republicans say is false.

"After the House passes the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, the Democrats who run Washington will have to act. The Senate can take up our bill and amend it, or they can pass their own bill. But they can’t continue to shirk their responsibility to govern. America can’t wait,” spokesman Michael Steel said in a reference to the Obama administration's "we can't wait" motto.

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday maintained that Congress has “ample time” to extend the payroll-tax cut and unemployment benefits, and work out the “remaining issues” on the spending bill before the end of the year.

“There is time to do it, but it has to all be done,” Carney said in his daily press briefing. “The president is going to insist that that work gets done.”

He also said that if Congress needs to pass another continuing resolution to fund the government in the absence of an omnibus spending bill, it would not be an “exceptional act” for Congress to take.

He indicated that the White House still has concerns with some “issues” included in the spending bill, such as one “that makes it harder to implement the Wall Street reforms.”

But Carney, with the White House clocks behind him counting down 18 days left before the payroll-tax cut’s year-end expiration, continued the White House press for action on Obama’s proposal to extend and expand the cut.

The White House statement notes that to pay for the payroll-tax break, the House GOP bill re-opens the August debt-ceiling deal and lowers spending caps over 10 years to try to save $26 billion.

The legislation “breaks the bipartisan agreement on spending cuts that was reached just a few months ago and would inevitably lead to pressure to cut investments in areas like education and clean energy,” the White House stated.

The administration also noted that the bill slashes funding for the implementation of healthcare reform.

“Instead of working together to find a balanced approach that will actually pass both Houses of the Congress, H.R. 3630 instead represents a choice to refight old political battles over health care and introduce ideological issues into what should be a simple debate about cutting taxes for the middle class,” it stated. 

Obama is pushing for the extension of the payroll-tax holiday to be paid for with a surtax on millionaires.

— This story was updated at 2:02 p.m.