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Payroll tax bill faces uncertain House prospects


WASHINGTON » The Senate-approved bill temporarily preventing a Jan. 1 payroll tax increase and benefit cutoff for the long-term unemployed faces uncertain prospects in the House, where many rank-and-file GOP lawmakers have told their leaders they are ready to reject the measure.

House Speaker John Boehner is expected to be pressed about the next move for Republicans when he appears on NBC’s "Meet the Press" show Sunday morning.

The House plans a Monday vote on the bill, which also forces a reluctant President Barack Obama to make an election-year choice between unions and environmentalists over whether to build an oil pipeline through the heart of the country and across ecologically sensitive aquifer that provides water to eight states.

The 89-10 Senate vote Saturday came after a bruising battle between Democrats and Republicans that produced the compromise two-month extension of the expiring tax breaks and jobless benefits and forestalled cuts in doctors’ Medicare reimbursements.

House GOP leaders held a conference call Saturday with rank-and-file lawmakers in which participants said strong anger was expressed about the Senate bill, including its lack of House-approved cuts in last year’s health care overhaul law and its failure to erase the reductions in doctors’ payments for more than two months.

"You can’t have an economic recovery with this," Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said of the bill.

A House GOP aide said later, "Members are overwhelmingly disappointed in the Senate’s decision to just ‘kick the can down the road’ for two months."

The Senate vote capped a year of divided government marked by raucous partisan fights that tumbled to the brink of a first-ever U.S. default on its debts and three federal shutdowns, only to see eleventh-hour deals emerge. It also put the two sides on track to revisit the payroll tax cut early next year as battles for control of the White House and Congress heat up.

While Obama and Democrats used the fight to portray themselves as defenders of beleaguered middle- and lower-income Americans, Republicans used it to cast themselves as champions of job creation.

Democrats said when Congress revisits the issue of renewing the tax cuts and jobless benefits early next year, they would win the political battle because they would be viewed as protecting peoples’ household budgets.

Republicans, though, said they would once again focus the fight on jobs, with some predicting they would try adding provisions to repeal pollution curbs and other government regulations that they say make it harder for companies to hire people.

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