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House GOP Leaders Agree To Pass 2-Month Tax Cut Extension

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds a news conference to announce that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had negotiated deal on the payroll tax cut.
Chip Somodevilla
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Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds a news conference to announce that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had negotiated deal on the payroll tax cut.

After another tense and dramatic partisan showdown, House Republicans have relented, agreeing with the demands of President Obama and even some members of their own party to vote on a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.

On Tuesday, the House had voted to move the bill into conference, but the Senate had already left town.

What resulted was Washington gridlock with Senate Democrats — who passed the bill in rare bi-partisan fashion — refusing to negotiate further and House Republicans insisting that a year-long extension was the only way to go.

But Speaker Boehner announced today that the House would pass the Senate bill with a couple of minor tweaks. He said he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will ask both chambers to approve the bill through unanimous consent "before Christmas."

The House and Senate can pass the bill through unanimous consent, if no lawmaker objects. In a press conference, Boehner said if a member objects, he would call the House back to Washington to vote on the measure.

If the House approves the bill before the end of the year, it would ensure that about 2 million Americans will continuing receiving long-term unemployment benefits and 160 million Americans would not see a 2-percent payroll tax hike.

We'll have more as this story develops.

Update at 5:48 p.m. ET. 'Good News ... In Time For The Holidays':

President Obama has just issued a statement that reads in part:

"This is good news, just in time for the holidays. This is the right thing to do to strengthen our families, grow our economy, and create new jobs. This is real money that will make a real difference in people's lives. And I want to thank every American who raised your voice to remind folks in this town what this debate was all about. It was about you. And today, your voices made all the difference."

Update at 5:40 p.m. ET. 'Hard To Do The Right Thing':

Speaker Boehner just held a very short press conference in which he announced the deal in very somber tones.

When asked if his entire caucus was on board, he demurred. "Look," he said, "I don't know that, but our goal is unanimous consent."

Boehner later added that if there are objections from his caucus — which would barr passing the bill through unanimous consent — he would call bring the House back in session for a vote.

"Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing," he said, after being asked if had a caved this week. "Sometimes it's politically difficult to do the right thing."

Update at 5:19 p.m. ET. The Terms Of The Deal:

Speaker Boehner says he has reached a deal with Sen. Harry Reid. As we mentioned earlier, the House will pass a slightly tweaked version of the bill and the Senate will confer to move it along. Boehner explained it in a statement:

"Under the terms of our agreement, a new bill will be approved by the House that reflects the bipartisan agreement in the Senate along with new language that allows job creators to process and withhold payroll taxation under the same accounting structure that is currently in place. The Senate will join the House in immediately appointing conferees, with instructions to reach agreement in the weeks ahead on a full-year payroll tax extension. We will ask the House and Senate to approve this agreement by unanimous consent before Christmas."

We're also expecting a press conference with Boehner at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Update at 5:10 p.m. ET. Boehner 'Has Blinked':

As NPR's David Welna just told Lynn Neary on All Things Considered, Speaker Boehner has blinked. David says Republican aides say Republican leaders in the House have agreed to vote on a two-month extension.

"This is a big reversal," says David. But now the big question is how his caucus will react to the news. "We don't know how many minds have been changed," said David.

What's next? David says the House could pass the measure tomorrow morning through what's called a "unanimous consent." The problem with that is that it requires that no one objects and "that's a big if."

Update at 4:28 p.m. ET. Conference Call:

Multiple news outlets are reporting that House leaders will hold a conference call at 5 p.m. ET. to present the deal to rank-and-file Republicans. Now, if you remember, it was after a Saturday conference callthat Speaker Boehner walked away from the deal reached in the Senate.

Some Republicans opposed the tax break, because as Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, told the AP, "it failed to create any jobs." Other Republicans were unhappy with the bill because many of the spending cuts — including cuts to fund Obama's healthcare bill — had been stripped from the legislation that had been passed earlier by the House.

In the end, the move backfired on Republicans. As we reported yesterday, even the conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal advocated passing the two-month extension.

Today, asThe Washington Post reports, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pressured his Republican colleagues in the House to pass the two-month extension. The Post adds:

"In his first statement on the issue since Sunday, McConnell (R-Ky.) urged his counterparts in the House to pass an extension that 'prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions.'

Update at 4:21 p.m. ET. A Tweaked Bill?:

Politico reports that what is on the table is not a simple up or down vote on the Senate version of the bill. Instead, the House would send a "slightly tweaked" version of the bill back to the Senate.

Reutersis also reporting that the Senate could reconvene on Friday to vote on the measure.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.