Most of House to leave after payroll vote

House Republicans are planning to leave for the Christmas holiday Tuesday afternoon after voting on a Senate proposal for a two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut.

The House voted 229-193 to disagree with the Senate and call for a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office announced Tuesday after the vote the House would be "in session as necessary" to consider the conference report and members would be given 24 hours notice before any votes.

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House Republicans have pushed for a one-year payroll tax extension, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he wont accept a conference committee if the House doesnt vote on the two-month extension.

The GOP announced Monday night that the lower chamber would vote on going to conference instead of voting on the Senates measure. They said a vote to go to a conference with the Senate would serve as a vote against the Senate bill.

A conference committee would work out differences with the Senate on how to pay for a one-year payroll-tax cut of 2 percent, a two-year fix to physician payments under Medicare and an extension of federal unemployment insurance.

“We’re appointing conferees — conferees can meet and we’ll come back and deal with what they agree,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said.

The plan to leave town comes as House Republicans have been blasting both Senate Democrats and Republicans for passing the two-month extension Saturday and leaving town for the holiday recess.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) on Monday sang “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” when asked why 39 Republicans voted for the Senate plan.

“It was a victory for the get-out-of-town caucus,” Simpson said of the vote.

GOP members argued that they are not needed while conferees meet and are only needed when another House vote is required before the current payroll-tax cut expires Jan. 1.

“I’ll stay if they want us to stay, just say the word,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said. “I am not going to stay just to talk to [the press].”

Republican leaders are not officially whipping their members on the vote, but they have voiced confidence it will be pass.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), an outspoken critic of extending the payroll-tax cut, said he was inclined to vote against the GOP leadership after the vote was changed. Whereas he was prepared to simply vote down the Senate bill, he said he does not want to see the measure go to a conference committee because he wants it to be killed entirely.

“It’s just comical to watch,” Flake said in an interview.

He said Republicans have been losing the political debate over the issue.

“A lot of us warned last year we would be in this exact position,” Flake said. “The Speaker has made great pains to say, ‘We were dealt a bad hand.’ We dealt ourselves this hand.”

— Russell Berman contributed.

– This story was updated at 3:18 p.m.