House GOP leaders announced Thursday that they had agreed to pass the Senate's two-month payroll tax holiday extension, and Senate Democrats said they would send negotiators to work out a longer extension with the House after the holidays.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) held a late-afternoon news conference on Thursday to announce the agreement, saying he thought the one-year extension provided "more certainty for job creators" but that he felt that House and Senate negotiators would be able to work out a deal in the coming weeks. He also emphasized the provisions of the agreement relating to the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded to the GOP announcement with a statement that read, in part: "I am grateful that the voices of reason have prevailed and Speaker Boehner has agreed to pass the Senate’s bipartisan compromise. Year-long extensions of the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and Medicare payments for physicians has always been our goal, and Democrats will not rest until we have passed them."
As the day began, with nine days to go until the payroll tax holiday ends, GOP leaders in the House and Senate were still divided about how to move forward. Speaker John Boehner told reporters his members would insist on a conference with the Senate, while Sen. Mitch McConnell, the senior Senate Republican, issued a statement calling on the House to pass the Senate's short-term extension.
Senator McConnell released a statement to lawmakers referring to a "path forward." It said "There is no reason why Congress and the President cannot accomplish all of these things before the end of the year. House Republicans sensibly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms. These goals are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both."