Here is the clearest explanation I have found of what has been happening in Congress around the payroll tax cut legislation:
The Senate, having voted 89-10 to approve an extension of payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits and dome other policies that are scheduled to expire on January 1st, has recessed for the year and gone home for the holiday recess. All that the House has to do to make the billofficially ready to be signed into law is hold a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate’s bipartisan bill. But during a 3 a.m. meeting of the House Rules Committee last night, the Republican majority devised a different plan — twist the voting procedure so that the Senate’s bill can be rejected while allowing the Republicans to save face by technically voting “aye.”
House Republicans say they oppose the bipartisan Senate bill because it only extends the payroll tax cuts for two months. But the Democrat-led Senate has been trying for months to get the Republicans to support a longer-term extension. The Republicans have repeatedly rejected the Senate’s offers, first demanding that the tax cut be offset (a huge flip-flop), then that nobody who makes over $1 million sees an increase in their taxes (thereby risking a large tax increase on the middle class), and then that a provision related to the Keystone XL oil pipeline be attached to the legislation. At this point, the Senate has agreed to give in to both of those demands, but only for long enough to keep the payroll tax cuts in effect while they negotiate a longer deal. That’s what the Republicans will be rejecting today, while trying to obscure the procedure and make it look like they’re the ones being pro-active.
House Republicans are about to cut off unemployment benefits to 160 million Americans right before the holidays. They would like you to believe that they’ve done their part, that they’ve done everything they could to pass a payroll tax cut and that they’re just waiting and praying for Democrats to cooperate, but that is a lie. And one of the distinct advantages of not being Norah O’Donnell or Nancy Kordes is that I do not have to omit key facts and misrepresent reality in order to keep my job.