(WASHINGTON) — A muted House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that Republicans have decided to accept a short-term extension of the payroll tax cut, preventing a hike in taxes just nine days before the tax break expires for 160 million Americans.
House GOP leaders appeared to be adopting a compromise suggested by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass the two-month extension in exchange for the Senate appointing members to a conference committee, which will negotiate a longer-term solution. The proposal won a nod of approval from President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
But Boehner was visibly unhappy with the deal.
“Kicking a can down the road for a couple of months does cause problems,” he said at a news conference Thursday.
House Republicans had originally wanted a one-year extension but faced mounting pressure from conservatives and their Senate counterparts to come to an agreement on the short-term deal.
“Sometimes it’s politically difficult to do the right thing,” Boehner said.
He admitted that the House Republicans’ refusal to compromise on the short-term extension, which received backlash even from conservatives, politically “may not be the smartest thing in this world … but our members waged a good fight.”
The deal entails a new bill with language protecting small businesses from a measure in the Senate bill that creates temporary new caps on the wages that are subject to payroll tax relief, a Republican aide said. Reid accepted the House Republicans’ proposal late Thursday afternoon.
The bill will be passed by unanimous consent, which would not require all the members to return for a vote.
Obama hailed the agreement and congratulated Congress members “for ending the partisan stalemate,” but he also urged Congress to extend the payroll tax cut for the full year in 2012 “without drama or delay.”
Earlier Thursday afternoon, Obama assailed House Republicans for a “ridiculous Washington standoff” and stepped up pressure on them to pass a two-month extension bill that sailed through the Senate by a bipartisan vote.
“This isn’t a typical Democrat versus Republican issue. This is an issue where an overwhelming number of people in both parties agree,” the president said today. “How can we not get that done? Has this place become so dysfunctional that even when people agree to things, we can’t do it? It doesn’t make any sense.”
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AJ Willingham, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN