House Speaker John Boehner announced this evening that House Republicans have agreed to a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance as part of a deal that includes assurances that the Senate will appoint conferees to negotiate a long-term one-year extension in the weeks ahead. But judging from his remarks, even the speaker didn't seem too pleased with how the political fight ended.
"Senator Reid and I have reached an agreement on payroll tax relief on behalf of the American people," Boehner, R-Ohio, announced following a members-only conference call with the House Republican Conference. "This agreement will help our economy."
Boehner, who did not appear overly enthusiastic about the deal, said that the agreement ensures that on Jan. 1 "no American worker will see an increase in their taxes," and he said tweaks to the Senate-passed two-month extension "will ensure that a new complex reporting burden is not unintentionally imposed on small businesses."
"I don't think it's any time for celebration. Our economy is struggling. We've got a lot of work ahead of us in the coming year," he said. "Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing, and sometimes it's politically difficult to do the right thing. But you know, when everybody called for a one-year extension of the payroll tax deduction, when everybody wanted a full year of extended unemployment benefits, we were here fighting for the right things. It may not have been politically the smartest thing in the world, but let me tell you what: I think our members waged a good fight."
The House is expected to approve the agreement by unanimous consent Friday, but if any members object the speaker said he would "absolutely" bring the bill to the House floor for a roll call vote next week. The House is scheduled to meet for a pro forma session at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the agreement "a victory for the American people."
"Along with President Obama, we remain committed to a year-long agreement to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, and ensure seniors can continue to see the doctor of their choice," Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement. "We are hopeful that the House and Senate will act tomorrow to provide certainty and economic security to American families."
But considering that the politically charged impasse threatened to break up the Republican Party's ranks this week, coupled with the House GOP's persistence that a short-term deal would only create uncertainty for the economy, Boehner was not eager to endorse the concept of short-term solutions.
"All year, you've heard me talk about short-term extensions, short-term gimmicks and the consequences they have for our economy," Boehner said. "When you look at this … it's another short-term extension. This creates uncertainty for job creators. I used to run a small business; I know how this works, and kicking the can down the road for a couple of months does cause problems."
So was it all worth it?
"Doing the right thing for the right reasons is always the right thing to do. And while everyone asked for a full-year extension of these programs, a lot of people weren't willing to put the effort in, as the holidays were approaching, to get it done. Our members were. So I'm proud of the efforts that they put into this," Boehner added. "It's not always easy to do the right thing, but we believe that we came here to change the way this town does business. And no more gimmicks, no more short-term this, short-term that. It's time to do solid policy and it's time to do it the right way."