(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday urged Democrats to come to terms with Republicans on a year-long extension to the payroll tax cut, as negotiations between conferees struggle to yield any concrete progress on a path towards a deal.
At his weekly news conference, the speaker once again suggested that Democrats should give up on a proposed tax hike on millionaires to pay for the extensions, which Democrats have persistently called for to cover the cost of the extensions. Republicans say the crosshairs of the surtax would fall squarely on the backs of small businesses — traditionally the country’s biggest employers.
“They refuse to allow any alternatives at all except for a job-killing small business tax hike that they know can’t pass the Senate, much less pass the House,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “If the president wants to get this done, I think he needs to let [Senate Finance] Chairman [Max] Baucus and the Democrat conferees do their work. Right now the only ones blocking an agreement are Senate Democrats and the president. It’s time for them to act.”
Boehner isn’t alone in his opposition to the so-called “millionaire’s tax.” Four separate votes in the Democrat-controlled Senate on various proposals to raise taxes on millionaires failed to gain adequate support late last year.
President Obama has said that passing a year-long extension of the payroll tax hike is his highest legislative priority this year. Congress has until Feb. 29 before the current two-month stop gap measure agreed to last December expires.
The speaker also frowned at a proposal that Congress use savings from winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to offset the cost of the so-called ‘doc fix’ for physicians providing Medicare services.
“It needs to pass the ‘straight face test,’” Boehner said. “The fact is that we are going to spend less in our war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, [but] to use those…savings to propel more spending doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense to me.”
The speaker did his best to express a sense of urgency for the conference committee to strike a deal, but he would not reveal how much more delay would inspire the congressional leadership to take the lead on negotiations.
After passing the STOCK Act today by a bipartisan vote of 417-2, Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the bipartisan tally is proof that, “we’ve got some work to do to restore the bond of trust with the public.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio