President Barack Obama, the Republican controlled House of
Representatives passed a plan to extend the payroll tax cut
linking it to approval of an oil pipeline. But the White House
threatened to veto it.
The bill, approved Tuesday on a 234-193 vote largely on party
lines, now goes to the Democratic controlled Senate, where it was
unlikely to pass due to strong opposition from Democratic leaders.
But if it does reach his desk, Obama will veto the plan, White
House said, as Congress prepared to leave Washington for its
holiday recess at the end of the week.
"This Congress needs to do its job and stop the tax hike that's
scheduled to affect 160 million Americans in 18 days," White House
spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement after the vote. "This is
not a time for Washington Republicans to score political points
against the president."
The impasse involves a convergence of major issues, including the
payroll tax-cut extension and a spending bill that must pass in
order to keep the government funded after Friday.
Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed that Congress
must not go home for the holidays without extending the payroll
tax cut that saves working Americans an average of $1,000 a year,
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
Without spelling out a specific order of necessary steps, Carney
made clear that Obama wants Congress to approve both a payroll tax
plan and the broad government spending bill.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell characterized the
Democratic stance as a threat to delay action on the spending plan
until a compromise is reached on the payroll tax cut measure. That
could cause a government shutdown after Friday, McConnell warned.
Carney, however, insisted that Congress has plenty of time to act
on all of the outstanding measures, and called for a payroll tax
extension free of the pipeline provision.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)