By Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — House GOP leaders struggled Friday with divisions within their party over whether to extend a payroll tax cut, a day after the Senate stalled in its efforts to keep the tax holiday going another year.
Senate votes Thursday exposed wide reluctance by Republicans to go along with the costly proposal that's a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's jobs agenda. That puts the focus on the GOP-controlled House.
The cut in Social Security payroll taxes encountered stiff opposition from many House Republicans in a closed-door meeting on Friday, and it seemed plain that Republican leaders like House Speaker John Boehner have a lot of persuading to do before the payroll tax measure and an accompanying extension of unemployment benefits is ready for a vote.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said the current 2 percentage point cut in the Social Security payroll tax hasn't helped. Extending the tax holiday for another year would cost $120 billion.
"It hasn't stimulated the economy at all," Gohmert said. "But over the long term, it does add to our deficit."
With just two or three weeks before Congress adjourns for the holidays, Republicans are deeply unhappy with a year-end agenda populated with Obama initiatives like the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits, as well as a nearly $1 trillion stack of unfinished spending bills.
"We need to get this done," Obama said Friday, speaking about the payroll tax cut. "And I expect that it's going to get done before Congress leaves. Otherwise Congress may not be leaving, and we can all spend Christmas here together."
"There's not a hell of a lot of enthusiasm for anything right now," said Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas.
On Thursday, as expected, Senate Republicans defeated Obama's plan to extend the payroll tax cut through the end of next year while also making it more generous for workers.