WASHINGTON — In an abrupt about-face, House GOP leaders announced Monday that they are willing to extend the two percentage point cut in the payroll tax through the end of the year and add the approximately $100 billion cost to the nation’s $15 trillion-plus debt.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy of California said the House could vote on the payroll tax measure this week, but that the fate of unemployment benefits for millions of the long-term jobless and efforts to forestall a scheduled cuts in fees to doctors who treat Medicare patients would remain in the hands of a House-Senat e negotiating panel that’s looking for ways to pay for them.
The GOP statement came after intense talks this weekend failed to produce an agreement. Republicans were pressing for pay cuts for federal workers and requiring them to contribute more to their pensions. They recoiled at a Democratic proposal to raise Transportation Security Administration per-ticket airline security fees.
“Democrats’ refusal to agree to any spending cuts in the conference committee has made it necessary for us to prepare this fallback option to protect small business job creators and ensure taxes don’t go up on middle class workers,” the GOP leadership statement said.
Without action by Congress by the end of the month, payroll taxes will rise for 160 million Americans. The two percentage point tax cut delivers about $20 a week to a worker making $50,000 a year and a tax cut totaling $2,000 this year for someone making a $100,000 salary.
Democrats were encouraged and said the development could break an impasse over the payroll tax proposal and the other expiring provisions.