As Congress wrestles over a slate of outstanding issues to settle before the end of the year, House Speaker John Boehner today urged Democrats to join Republicans in passing an economic package that would extend a number of expiring measures, like unemployment insurance and the payroll tax credit.
"I do believe that [ the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Act] is going to pass with bipartisan support, and when it comes to jobs the American people can't wait," Boehner said. "We're going to take action."
The Ohio Republican would not reveal whether he would dismiss lawmakers once the House concludes its business, but he said it is "important" that Congress pass the extensions to help Americans desperate for relief.
"We're going to have to wait until later on in the week to see what the Senate does," Boehner said. "All I can do is report to you about what the House is doing and I'm confident that we're going to move the bills that we need to move this week, and then the Senate can do whatever the Senate has to do."
The GOP's proposal would extend the payroll tax credit for one year, reform and extend unemployment insurance, and implement a "doc fix" to protect Medicare physicians from large reimbursement cuts. It also accelerates a presidential decision on the Keystone XL energy pipeline, which Republicans say will create tens of thousands of jobs but Democrats have decried as a poison pill in the Senate.
The $7 billion pipeline project by TransCanada would bring oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in the south of the United States. Republicans say the pipeline will generate $585 million in new taxes for states and communities along its route and TransCanada would pay $5.2 billion in property taxes during the operating life of the pipeline.
Boehner said he believes the GOP's bill will pass with bipartisan support when it comes to the floor Tuesday, citing an endorsement by Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Dan Boren, who called on Congress today to "come together in a bipartisan way to pass this legislation."
But many Democrats and President Obama point to the controversial pipeline project as justification to oppose the package. Nevertheless, Boehner said he still believes there's a "good shot" that the Senate will pass the measure with the provision included.
"We've studied this Keystone pipeline for three years. All the work has been done, it's passed approval at every level," he said. "Everything is done. The state of Nebraska now agrees. The only thing arbitrary about this decision is the decision by the president to say, 'well, let's wait until after the next election.' The American people want jobs. This is as close to a shovel-ready project as you're ever going to see. This is exactly the description of the kind of jobs plans that the president says he wants to enact."
Boehner would not comment on the prospect of further negotiations if the House passes the bill but the Senate rejects it.
"The House is going to do its job, and it's time for the Senate then to do its job," he said.
Aside from the payroll tax credit, unemployment insurance and SGR/Doc Fix, which are all set to expire Dec. 31, the House must also pass an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government before the current continuing resolution runs out on Friday. That bill is expected to be introduced as soon as Tuesday morning, with a vote in the House as early as Thursday.