Dems say differences with Republicans on payroll bill are steep

House Democrats on Thursday rejected an idea pushed by some top Republicans that the two parties have only slight differences on extending the payroll tax cut.

Earlier on Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had said the disparities between the House and Senate extensions could be ironed out in just an hour or two.

But Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), speaking at a news conference with other top House Democrats, said Cantor’s comments were “just not true.”

“That’s make-believe,” said Van Hollen, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee. “The reality is there were some big differences.”

Van Hollen’s comments came as House Democrats continued their push to get their GOP counterparts to pass the two-month Senate extension of the payroll tax cut, federal unemployment benefits and Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors.

The Democrats have, for much of the week, tried to match the House GOP’s public push for yearlong deal with appearances of their own.

ADVERTISEMENT
On Thursday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), speaking just moments after House Republicans, said the two-month deal was far from perfect but would give negotiators time to get down to work on a longer tax cut plan.

“There are things in this bill, as we’ve pointed out, that we had to make concessions on. That’s the process,” Hoyer said. “Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of Tea Party activists who were elected to the Congress that don’t understand compromise.”

While the Democrats were on stage, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also said that House Republicans should approve the Senate deal — so long as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agrees to appoint negotiators to hammer out a longer extension.

House Republicans, after earlier expressing some unease about a payroll tax cut extension, are now saying that a yearlong extension is needed to give businesses and workers more certainty going into 2012.

But both during and after their news conference, Democrats suggested that McConnell’s statement, and those from other conservatives, showed that House Republicans were increasingly alone in their payroll tax stance.

McConnell’s comments come after several GOP senators, The Wall Street Journal editorial board and Karl Rove said House Republicans are losing the political battle over the extension. 

“Based on what I understand his statement to be, that would provide a way out of the situation,” Van Hollen said about McConnell’s release after the briefing.

For his part, Hoyer said that House Republicans were outnumbered four to one in the fight, squaring off against House Democrats, the White House and both parties in the Senate. 

"If you try to make percentages of it, four-fifths of the decision-makers agree on moving this forward now to prevent bad things from happening to good people," Hoyer said.
 
If Congress does not act, roughly 160 million workers will see their payroll tax rate rise by 2 percentage points at year’s end.