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Obama calls Boehner to push for payroll tax cut extension

President Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner

President Obama called House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday to press him to accept a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, promising that if the temporary extension is passed, the president will sign a full, one-year extension into law by the end of January.

Mr. Obama also made a separate call to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and according to a White House summary of the call, "applauded him for the work he conducted with Minority Leader [Mitch] McConnell to achieve a successful bipartisan compromise" on the payroll tax cut.

The debate over an extension of the tax cut remains deadlocked, after the Republican-led House on Tuesday refused to accept a Senate-passed version of the bill, which passed with 89 votes and the support of all but seven Republicans.

If they payroll tax cut is not extended by the end of the month, about 160 million Americans would see their payroll tax revert to 6.2 percent from the 4.2 percent it was lowered to a year ago. Failure to act would also result in cuts to Medicare doctors' fees and a lapse in jobless benefits.

Both Democrats and some Republicans want to extend the tax cut, but the parties are divided over how to pay for it, as well as unrelated measures that have been included in the debate, such as a provision relating to a transcontinental oil pipeline. The Senate passed a two-month extension in order to give Congress more time to negotiate the sticking points.

Instead of voting on the Senate bill, the House voted in favor of forming a "conference committee" -- a small group of lawmakers from both the Senate and the House that would work out the two chambers' differences. House Republicans insist Congress should forgo the two-month extension and pass a full, one-year extension now.

In a USA Today op-ed published today, Boehner wrote, "We hope the president, who has repeatedly said he won't go on vacation until this matter is resolved, will urge Senate Democrats to change their minds. He should call on them to appoint negotiators so we can extend payroll tax relief for a full year and help create jobs."

With his phone call today, Mr. Obama did just the opposite, urging Boehner to change his mind.

According to a Boehner aide, Boehner maintained his insistence on passing a one-year extension this year, asking the president to support the conference committee.

"The speaker told the president that his conference was elected to change the way Washington does business and that we should not waste the next ten days simply because it is an inconvenient time of year," the aide said. "He said that our differences are not so great that we cannot pass a full-year bill by December 31st."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today that asking the House to go along with the Senate is "not much of an ask."

"We're asking them to vote yes on a bill that 82 percent of Senate Republicans supported," Carney said.

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