Obama to House Republicans on payroll tax cut: "This is not a game"

Obama speaks on impasse over extending payroll tax cuts, jobless benefits

UPDATED 2:53 p.m. ET

President Obama on Tuesday chastised House Republicans for blocking a bipartisan Senate plan to extend the payroll tax cut for two months, effectively trying to reopen negotiations on the measure just ten days before the popular tax cuts are set to expire.

"This is not a game," Mr. Obama told reporters in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room, "the clock is ticking."

"This shouldn't be politics as usual. Right now the (economic) recovery is fragile but it is moving in the right direction. Our failure to do this could have effects not just on families but on the economy as a whole," Mr. Obama said.

The House of Representatives moments earlier had rejected the Senate plan, which extends benefits for unemployed workers and extends the tax cut aimed at stimulating the economy for just two months so lawmakers from both parties can work out a broader compromise on how to pay for them for a full year. Democrats want to pay for them with a tax on the richest Americans, but Republicans are opposed.

House Speaker John Boehner took a calculated political gamble by seeking to send the measure back to the Senate, which has already adjourned for the holidays.

If the two sides are unable to strike a deal before the end of the year, millions of Americans will take home less money when the payroll tax reverts to the higher rate next year.

"If there are differences between the two Houses, we sit down and negotiate those differences," Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill, urging his Senate colleagues to come back and negotiate for a longer extension.

"I need the president to help out," Boehner said to loud applause from his House Republican colleagues.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he does not plan to name members of the committee to work out the differences.

The payroll tax affects about 160 million Americans and it was cut by two percentage points a year ago to 4.2 percent in an effort to stimulate the economy with a little extra cash in people's pockets. Many conservative Republicans are skeptical of the macroeconomic benefits of the politically popular tax cut.

In an interview with USA Today on Monday, Boehner said he was optimistic the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits would be extended.

  • Corbett Daly On Twitter»

    CBSNews.com Deputy Politics Editor Corbett B. Daly is based in Washington. He has worked at Reuters, Thomson Financial News and CBS MarketWatch.

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