In his latest pitch to solve the Washington political stalemate, U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday made phone calls to top congressional leaders to urge the extension of payroll tax cut and federal jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.
"In his call to Speaker Boehner, the President reiterated the need and his commitment to work with Congress to extend the payroll tax cut for the entire year, and the fact that the short- term bipartisan compromise passed by almost the entire Senate is the only option to ensure that middle class families aren't hit with a tax hike in 10 days and gives both sides the time needed to work out a full year solution," the White House said in a statement.
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted on Saturday and approved a two-month extension of payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, the latest compromise by U.S. senators.
After GOP House lawmakers balked at the Senate measure over the weekend, Republican leaders including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner began to walk away from the bipartisan deal, adding another chapter to a high-stakes political wrangling.
As expected by GOP leaders, the Republican-led House of Representatives on Tuesday scuttled the short-term Senate measure, sending the thorny issue to a House-Senate conference committee to bridge differences, a formal legislative step that put the White House and Senate in an uncomfortable spot.
Boehner has named eight GOP negotiators to work with Democrats on this issue through the conference committee, or sometimes referred as the compromise committee, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he would not appoint negotiators to the conference committee, evidence of the lingering deadlock.
Obama on Wednesday also spoke with Reid, a Democrat, and applauded him for the work he conducted with McConnell to achieve a bipartisan compromise bill, adding that Reid reaffirmed his commitment to secure a bipartisan year-long tax cut after the House passes the two-month Senate extension version, noted the statement.
At issue was how to cover the revenue loss of the Social Security Trust Fund due to the one-year payroll tax cuts, with Republicans demanding further slashing government outlays and Democrats seeking a higher income tax rate for the super-rich.
A typical U.S. family with an annual income of 50,000 dollars would pay 1,000 dollars more in payroll taxes if Congress does not act by the end of this year to extend that reduction, according to the White House.