(WASHINGTON) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has written a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, urging him to call the House of Representatives back from vacation to pass the Senate two-month payroll tax bill.
Only then, says Reid — who once accused Republicans of holding the legislative process “hostage” — will he negotiate towards a longer, year-long deal.
“Once the House of Representatives acts on this immediate extension, we will be able to sit down and complete negotiations on a longer extension,” Reid writes. “But because we have a responsibility to assure middle-class families that their taxes will not go up while we work out our differences, we must pass this immediate extension first.”
This is, in essence, the same hard-line that Reid has been taking all week: that in order for negotiations to move forward the House must hold a straight up or down vote on the Senate-passed bill, not just the resolution of disapproval of the Senate bill as the House passed this week.
Reid says that there still are differences between the two parties over how to fund and implement the programs — differences that he notes will, “take longer than a few days to reconcile,” before the tax cut expires on Dec. 31.
If the two-month deal is passed, Reid says he is “fully confident” that a longer-term extension can be negotiated.
“But in the meantime, families should not have to worry that they will wake up to a tax increase on January 1, 2012,” he adds.
Below is the text of the full letter:
Dear Speaker Boehner,
Our respective chambers have been seeking for weeks to negotiate a year-long extension of the payroll tax cut for middle-class families, as well as unemployment benefits and Medicare payments for physicians.
You and I agree that this should be our goal. But as these weeks have made clear, there remain differences between our parties over how to fund and implement these programs that will take longer then a few days to reconcile.
Recognizing this reality, eighty-nine Republican and Democratic senators came together to agree to a short-term extension of these programs. As you requested when we met last Wednesday, Senator McConnell and I worked together to find this common ground. Once the House of Representatives acts on this immediate extension, we will be able to sit down and complete negotiations on a longer extension. But because we have a responsibility to assure middle-class families that their taxes will not go up while we work out our differences, we must pass this immediate extension first.
As the Senate vote made clear, there is no reason for this to be a partisan issue. I am fully confident that we can work out our differences and find common ground on a year-long extension. But in the meantime, families should not have to worry that they will wake up to a tax increase on January 1, 2012.
To provide middle-class families the certainty they deserve, I urge you to reconvene the House to act on the Senate’s bipartisan compromise as soon as possible.
Senator Harry Reid
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Stephen Collinson, CNN
Ruth Brown, Idaho Press-Tribune
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