Creating another stalemate in Congress, the U.S. House voted 229 - 193 to "disapprove" the Senate bill to extend the payroll tax cut for two months. The House also votes on two other items relating to the payroll tax holiday that has dominated debate on Capitol Hill for most of the month.
Members won't vote on the Senate bill, instead, the three votes are: to disagree with Senate's language and to go to conference with the Senate over that disagreement; a reaffirmation of support for the original House payroll tax bill, and a motion to instruct conferees offered by the Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, "It is unconscionable that Speaker Boehner is blocking a bipartisan compromise."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) wrote a letter to President Obama. Boehner wrote said, "I ask you to call on the Senate to return to appoint negotiators so that we can provide the American people the economic certainty they need."
In a surprise appearance in the press briefing room, President Obama said the Senate "compromise... is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike."
Reid said in a statement, “My House colleagues should be clear on what their vote means today. If Republicans vote down the bipartisan compromise negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders, and passed by 89 senators including 39 Republicans, their intransigence will mean that in ten days, 160 million middle class Americans will see a tax increase, over two million Americans will begin losing their unemployment benefits, and millions of senior citizens on Medicare could find it harder to receive treatment from physicians."
The Speaker said that the Senate bill "kicks the can down the road and creates uncertainty for small businesses and the economy."
After passing the compromise bill by a vote of 89-10, the Senate went into recess, with a series of pro forma sessions scheduled until the full Senate reconvenes on Monday, Jan. 23.
However, to avoid a Dec. 31 deadline when the payroll tax holiday expires, both chambers must reconcile their differences over the bill.
In his daily press briefing Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the payroll tax cut was President Obama's "number one priority."
Under the Senate-passed measure, the payroll tax rate would stay reduced to 4.2 percent until February. The deal also includes the so-called "doc fix" which sets reimbursement rates for Medicare providers, a two month extension of unemployment insurance, and language relating to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S.