(AP, WJLA) — The plan to extend the payroll tax is in serious jeopardy.
The vote, intended for Monday evening, was postponed until Tuesday. However, it appeared that House leaders were leaning toward trying to come to a compromise in a conference committee rather than reject the Senate bill outright.
"Our members do not just want to punt and do a short two-month fix where we have to come back and do this again," said Speaker John Boehner.
The Senate passed a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut late last week which would keep the current tax rate for 160 million Americans from jumping 2 percent at the start of the year. But GOP leaders said the short term solution creates too much uncertainty in an already shaky economy.
"It will increase expense and confusion and will actually hurt not only small businesses but also their workers," said Rep. Eric Cantor.
Democrats say this is just more stalling from those who were never on-board with the cuts in the first place.
"Here we are just days before Christmas," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. "The Republicans aren't giving a reason, just an excuse."
Those on the Republican side are demanding a year-long extension of the cuts and are calling for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reopen formal negotiations--something he's already rejected--as senators are already home for the holidays.
"I don't believe the differences between the House and Senate are that great," Boehner said, although he provided no estimate on how long it might take to produce a compromise.
Without action by Congress, both the payroll tax cut and a program for long-term unemployment benefits will expire on Jan. 1.
Boehner spoke after a chaotic weekend in which Senate leaders first failed to agree on a full-year bill, then coalesced around the two-month-extension that passed overwhelmingly, only to spark a revolt among GOP conservatives in the House.
There was no immediate reaction from either the White House or leaders in the Senate, which adjourned for the year shortly after approving its version of the bill.
The revolt of the rank and file placed Boehner and Republicans in a difficult position, just as it appeared they had outmaneuvered President Barack Obama by assuring that the legislation would require him to make a swift decision on construction of a proposed oil pipeline. He had announced he would put off the issue until after the presidential election in 2012 rather than decide the fate of a project that divided normal Democratic allies, environmentalists opposed and several labor unions in favor.
In a television interview shortly before Boehner's news conference, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer accused Boehner of reversing his position on the two-month measure because of a "tea party revolt, and warned that failure to pass legislation could result in higher taxes on 160 million workers.
But Boehner said that was not the case. "I raised concerns about the two-month process from the moment I heard about it," he said.
He called on members of the Senate to "put their vacations on hold" and return to forge a compromise.
Obama has said repeatedly Congress should not quit for the year until the tax cut has been extended.
In addition, some unemployment insurance benefits and the current Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors are in jeopardy as they are part of the payroll tax cut bill.