House begins debating payroll tax cut

December 20, 2011 • National News

Rep. Steny Hoyer D-Md. speaks during a news conference at Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 as House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. James Clyburn D-S.C., listen. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — With neither side showing signs of yielding, a bitterly divided House debated a Republican effort Tuesday to force the Senate to negotiate a payroll tax cut and jobless benefits that expire on New Year’s Day.

The GOP-run House planned a vote on rejecting a two-month extension of the tax cut and unemployment benefits that the Senate passed last weekend with a bipartisan landslide. They were also ready to vote to formally request the Senate to begin fresh talks on the legislation.

The Democratic-led Senate left town on Saturday after approving its version of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he won’t renew bargaining until the House approves the Senate’s short-term measure.

Without an agreement, payroll taxes paid by 160 million workers and jobless benefits that support millions of the long-term unemployed will expire Jan. 1. With their cherished holiday recess being shortened each day the battle rages, each side the blamed the other for the impasse.

“If you say you want to do this for a year, put your vote where your rhetoric is,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a member of the House GOP leadership. “If you’re not willing to work over the holidays, admit to the American people that you’re not willing to work over the holidays.”

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