Barack vs Boehner
Barack versus Boehner: The battle continues. Image: JoeInSouthernCA/Flickrr/CC BY-ND

President Obama made an unexpected appearance Tuesday at a White House briefing. He had some choice words for House Speaker John Boehner. The president told the speaker in no uncertain terms to vote on the payroll tax cut that the Senate has already passed.

A surprise visit

The president said:

“I’m calling on the Speaker and the House Republican leadership to bring up the Senate bill for a vote. This is not poker; this is not a game. We have more important things to worry about than saving face, or figuring out internal caucus politics.”

The confrontation followed the House Republicans rejection of a two-month extension for the payroll tax cuts. They are set  to expire on Jan.1. House Republicans say they will pass the tax cuts extension for a year, and no shorter.

The tax cuts were part of a Senate package that also included an extension of unemployment benefits and other items also set to expire at the end of the year.

Voted to ‘reject’ instead

The House vote Tuesday was not an up-and-down vote on the Senate bill, as the White House had hoped. Instead they voted on a “motion to reject” the bill. It was rejected 229-193, with no support from Democrats. Republicans want the matter to be discussed in a House-Senate conference committee, a plan that had already been rejected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland, said:

“We’re going to drag them kicking and screaming to a conference.”

Both parties want year extension

House republicans argue that a two-month extension is not long enough. And Democrats agree that a yearlong extension is needed. However, the two parties cannot agree on how to pay for the extension. The two-month extension has already been funded, and its passage would give wiggle-room in determining how to pay for a longer extension.

Democrat leaders fed up

President Obama said the House Republicans are merely trying to “wring concessions from Democrats on issues having nothing to do with the payroll tax cut.” He accused the GOP of playing political games and using the livelihood of American citizens as leverage.

“Let’s not play brinksmanship. The American people are weary of it; they’re tired of it,” the president said. “They expect better.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said of the House Republicans:

“Whatever they say is irrelevant. What they do is what’s important, and what they’re doing is not giving a payroll tax cut to 160 million Americans.”


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