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With payroll tax cut unresolved, Congress packs up

House lawmakers prepare to follow their Senate colleagues on a holiday recess, with no sign of a compromise that would save the expiring tax break for workers.

December 20, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro and Kathleen Hennessey, Washington Bureau

The GOP appointed eight negotiators to work over the holidays in hopes that the Senate would return to the bargaining table. Some other House members planned to remain in Washington as a show of support, even as most of their colleagues defended decisions to head home for the holidays.

"I don't think the public insists we sit around here fiddling our thumbs," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who was planning to spend Christmas with his five grandchildren at home.

But with senators long gone, Democrats showed no signs of budging. House Republicans also remained adamant.

"Democrats need to be careful — the president seems to be going on a scorched-earth policy," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). "But if they think there's not going to be collateral damage on their side, they're out of their minds."

Seeing the difficulty this Congress has had finding compromise, and wanting a break from a year of fierce partisan battles, GOP senators thought it best to approve the stopgap measure for now.

"I'm not going to argue with the House of Representatives, but do they want taxes to go up on January the 1st, or don't they?" Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who voted for the compromise, said in a radio interview Tuesday. "If they don't do anything, the chances are taxes would go up."

That is a gamble both sides appear increasingly willing to take.

Christi Parsons in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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