House passes payroll tax cut extension

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Updated: 7:14 p.m. ET

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation extending the payroll tax cut, voting 234 to 193 in favor of the bill.

Ten Democrats voted for the bill, and 14 Republicans voted against it.

Earlier Tuesday, President Obama threatened to veto the bill due to objections over how House Republicans chose to pay for the $180 billion legislation.

The Republican-sponsored legislation would extend the payroll tax cut for 160 million workers for another year. It would also extend long-term unemployment benefits -- though with reforms that Democrats have protested -- and prevent a cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

Despite a mutual consensus in favor of a payroll tax cut extension, Republicans and Democrats have sparred for weeks over the appropriate way to pay for the legislation.

The House Republicans' bill does so by extending the current federal worker pay freeze one more year, requiring federal workers to contribute more to their pensions, and charging higher insurance rates for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. It would also prevent millionaires from collecting unemployment benefits or food stamps and increase Medicare Part B and D premiums for high income earners.

Democrats have proposed paying for the extension by raising taxes on Americans earning more than $1 million a year.

The two parties have also butted heads over Republican efforts to streamline the decision-making process on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas as part of the measure.

In debate on the House floor Tuesday evening, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of "trying to change the subject" by including the measure , which environmental activists vehemently oppose.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, accused Democrats of letting political interests get in the way of what he describes as "the biggest shovel-ready project in America."

"Here's a project that would create tens of thousands of jobs right away, wouldn't cost the taxpayers a dime to build, would reduce the share of energy that we import from unfriendly countries overseas, and which everybody from the labor unions to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says they support because it would create tens of thousands of jobs right away," he said in a Tuesday statement. "But the presidential campaign is getting in the way, to the point that the Senate Majority Leader now says he's willing to hold up a bipartisan bill to fund our troops, border security and other federal responsibilities, rather than let the President decide if this pipeline project should move forward."

In a statement following the House vote Tuesday evening, the White House reiterated its call for Congress to "do its job" and "stop the tax hike" that will impact 160 million Americans in the absence of a deal.

"This is not a time for Washington Republicans to score political points against the President," read a statement from the office of the White House Press Secretary. "It's not a time to refight old ideological battles. And it's not a time to break last summer's bipartisan agreement and hurt the middle class by cutting things like education, clean energy, and veterans' programs without asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."

Senate Democrats have suggested that the House bill will be dead on arrival in that chamber, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he recently told House Speaker John Boehner not to bother sending him legislation that would not get any Democratic support.

"I said there's no need to send us something over here that can't get Democratic votes and what you have now, what you have the rule on, isn't going to pass over here," he told Boehner Monday, according to the Hill.

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