House passes payroll tax cut extension bill despite veto threat

The House on Tuesday afternoon approved legislation that extends the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits, but includes several provisions that Democrats vigorously oppose.

Members approved the bill in a 234-193 vote in which 224 Republicans supported it — short of House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerHouston Chronicle endorses Beto O'Rourke in Texas Senate race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger MORE's (R-Ohio) goal of getting 240 GOP votes, which he said would give the House a "strong hand" in negotiations with Senate Democrats. The bill was opposed by 14 Republicans, but it attracted the support of 10 Democrats.

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The vote sets up the prospect of negotiations with the White House and Senate over how to deal with the bill, as the Senate is not expected to approve it. The House all year has moved to pass critical legislation in order to boost its chances of success in negations with Democrats in the Senate and the White House, and appeared to be following that game plan with today's vote.

For numerous reasons, the bill, H.R. 3630, is controversial with Democrats, who wanted to pay for these extensions through tax increases. The House GOP bill pays for extensions to the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance through reforms and cuts to existing spending, and would also trim discretionary spending by $30 billion over the next decade.

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) defended these unemployment provisions as needed reforms that would promote work over welfare.

"Why are we making these reforms instead of just passing a straight extension?" he asked on the floor. "Because we know that a paycheck is better than an unemployment check. These bipartisan reforms will help get Americans back to work while providing them with assistance during hard times."


The bill also contains what Democrats see as extraneous language that would speed up the timing of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, and delays pending EPA rules on industrial boilers. Pelosi said Republicans were using the Keystone pipeline issue as a diversion from President Obama's jobs plan.

"It is clear that the Republicans, in using the pipeline, are trying to change the subject," she said.

Republicans said the Keystone language and other provisions answer the demands by Democrats to approve a jobs plan, but Democrats rejected this. Some went so far as to say the GOP wants the bill to fail, as President Obama on Tuesday threatened to veto the bill over the Keystone language.

"So they're bringing a bill to the floor today, which says they're for a payroll-tax cut, but has within it the seeds of its own destruction, because it has poison pills, which they know are not acceptable to the president," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said.

"The House Republicans have designed a bill to fail," Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said. "They say they're for extending the payroll-tax cut for middle-class Americans, they say they want to help the unemployed, but yet they demand a ransom in order for us to get this passed."

Like Camp, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) insisted that the various provisions in the bill are not poison pills, but real reforms aimed at trimming federal spending in light of the ongoing fiscal crisis.

"The idea of saying that we want to encourage those who are unemployed to move towards a GED does not seem to me to be a poison pill," Dreier said of one of the reforms to the unemployment insurance program that Democrats opposed. "The idea of saying that we should have drug testing … so that people who are receiving these unemployment benefits are not using those resources to purchase drugs is obviously not a poison pill."

Democrats more generally complained about the process Republicans used to bring up a bill that had no input from Democrats. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Republicans reneged on there promise not to attack controversial language to must-pass bills.

"That apparently was a campaign pledge not to be honored in practice," he said, adding that he would be "shocked" if anyone read the bill.

"If Republicans were serious, truly serious about trying to come together on behalf of American families, they would have reached out to Democrats in this House," House Ways & Means Committee Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said. "They've done nothing of the sort. They've made a sham out of bipartisanship."

House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) predicted Democrats would win back the House once the nation sees the "Keystone Kops" way Republicans have managed the House, and based on this, introduced two subcommittee ranking members as the future chairmen of those subcommittees.

Democrats used every trick in the book to slow House consideration of the bill. Before the rule for the bill was debated, Democrats raised a point of order against the bill. Later, they put forward a motion to recommit the bill, usually a 30 minute delay before passage. But this time, Democrats insisted that a good chunk of the lengthy motion be read out loud, which delayed the final vote even more.

Democrats voting "yes" were Reps. John BarrowJohn Jenkins BarrowOur democracy can’t afford to cut legal aid services from the budget Dem files Ethics complaint on Benghazi panel Barrow thanks staff in farewell speech MORE (Ga.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE (Iowa), Dennis Cardoza (Calif.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign Donnelly parodies 'Veep' in new campaign ad MORE (Ind.), Dave Loebsack (Iowa), Jim MathesonJames (Jim) David MathesonTrump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Utah redistricting reform measure likely to qualify for ballot Trump's budget targets affordable, reliable power MORE (Utah), Mike Ross (Ark.), and Tim Walz (Minn.).

Republicans voting against it were Reps. Justin AmashJustin AmashWatchdog files Hatch Act complaint against Sanders for picture with Kanye in MAGA hat Cook Political Report shifts 7 more races towards Dems Rand Paul ramps up his alliance with Trump MORE (Mich.), Joe Barton (Texas), Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksTrump immigration measures struggle in the courts Latino groups intervene in Alabama census lawsuit Alabama GOP congressman preps possible Senate bid against Doug Jones MORE (Ala.), John Campbell (Calif.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump boosts McSally, bashes Sinema in Arizona Watch live: Trump speaks at Arizona rally Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi disappearance MORE (Ariz.), Jeff FortenberryJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FortenberryIn the wake of ISIS: Seeking to restore what is right and good for the Yazidis Fortenberry named chairman of legislative appropriations subcommittee in House The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Tensions mount for House Republicans MORE (Neb.), Scott GarrettErnest (Scott) Scott GarrettManufacturers support Reed to helm Ex-Im Bank Trump taps nominee to lead Export-Import Bank Who has the edge for 2018: Republicans or Democrats? MORE (NJ), Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter JohnsonSeveral hurt when truck runs into minimum wage protesters in Michigan Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Court ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada MORE (Ill.), Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisLobbying world Female lawmakers flee House for higher office, retirement Despite a battle won, 'War on Coal' far from over MORE (Wyo.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), David McKinleyDavid Bennett McKinleySuper PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias at hearing Live coverage: Social media execs face grilling on Capitol Hill MORE (W.Va.), Randy NeugebauerRobert (Randy) Randolph NeugebauerCordray announces he's leaving consumer bureau, promotes aide to deputy director GOP eager for Trump shake-up at consumer bureau Lobbying World MORE (Texas), Frank WolfFrank Rudolph WolfVulnerable Republican keeps focus as Democrats highlight Trump Bolton could be the first national security chief to prioritize religious freedom House votes to mandate sexual harassment training for members and staff MORE (Va.), and Rob WoodallWilliam (Rob) Robert WoodallCook moves status of 6 House races as general election sprint begins 2 women win Georgia Dem runoffs, extending streak for female candidates Bourdeaux wins Georgia Dem runoff, in latest win by female candidates MORE (Ga.).

Presidential candidates Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannYes, condemn Roseanne, but ignoring others is true hypocrisy Bachmann won't run for Franken's Senate seat because she did not hear a 'call from God' Billboard from ‘God’ tells Michele Bachmann not to run for Senate MORE (R-Minn.) did not vote.

— This story was updated at 7:21 p.m.