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Congress May Begin Meeting Soon on Payroll Tax Cut Extension

January 10, 2012

House Democrats say they’re eager to begin meeting with Republicans on extending the payroll tax cut through the end of the year.

The five House Democrats who have been chosen to sit on a conference committee that is tasked with agreeing on a way to pay for extending the payroll tax cut through the end of the year sent a letter Monday to Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, urging him to begin the work of the conference committee.

Congress is not scheduled to return from its holiday recess until January 17, but the five Democrats say they’re already back in Washington and ready to work on the legislation.

They include Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Sander Levin of Michigan, Xavier Becerra of California, Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, and Henry Waxman of California.

“Because the Conference Committee has responsibility to develop this legislation, we should be working on that legislation now, not waiting for weeks, even if Congress is not formally in session,” they wrote. “Last week, we, the House Democratic conferees declared we were in Washington, ready to meet at any time to begin that process. We reiterate that offer today. There is no excuse for delaying the work of the Conference Committee. The American people want jobs; we should be working to create them.”

Late last month, Congress agreed to extend the 2-percentage point payroll tax cut for withholding of Medicare and Social Security taxes, along with federal unemployment benefits and the "doc fix" for Medicare reimbursements for physicians, for another two months, paying for it by increasing the fee for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-guaranteed mortgages. But Republicans and Democrats remain at odds over ways to pay for extending the tax cut for a full year, with Democrats insisting on a surtax on income over $1 million and Republicans pushing for deeper spending cuts.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the Assistant Democratic Leader on the House side, also tried to extend the normally abbreviated pro forma session of the House last Friday by calling for the payroll tax cut conference committee to get to work, according to ABC News, but he wasn’t recognized to speak and the session was quickly gaveled to a close.

In any case, it’s not clear whether their counterparts in the Senate—both Democrats and Republicans—are back from their extended vacations yet, though, and ready to argue over the details of the payroll tax cut extension for the umpteenth time.

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