(Dennis Brack/Getty Images )
House Democrats continued their daily assault on Republicans on Monday over extending the payroll tax break, hoping to cut short the holiday recess to bring both sides to the table and negotiate a long-term resolution to the volatile issue.
The barrage serves as a political weapon for Democrats, who believe they are gaining political traction by blaming Republicans for any potential lapse in the tax break, which amounts to about $20 a week for the average worker.
The GOP’s initial opposition to the tax break last year resulted in a prolonged debate. Ultimately, the tax break, which had been in place throughout 2011, was renewed for two more months, through February. The issue will be a top priority when Congress returns to work next week.
“The clock is ticking on this urgent priority,” House Democrats wrote on Monday. “The last thing the American people, or the American economy, needs is another unnecessary and avoidable crisis like those we faced repeatedly in 2011.”
Resolution has been left to a committee of Republicans and Democrats that is expected to meet in the weeks ahead to negotiate a compromise.
The problem has been how to pay for the tax break package, which costs $200 billion. It also includes a continuation of unemployment insurance and prevents a pay cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients.
House GOP leaders are overseas, but House Republicans on the committee convened a conference call last week to begin laying groundwork for the talks.
“All members are anxious to begin formal, bipartisan, bicameral meetings,” said a spokeswoman for Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the committee.
The payroll tax break shaves two percentage points off the tax workers pay into Social Security. Mainstream economists say it is vital to stimulating the economy, but many Republicans doubt it is worth the cost and are skeptical that funds lost to the retirement system will be replenished with cuts elsewhere in the budgets.
Last week, House Democrats tried to seize the floor during a pro forma session to bring the issue to the fore. The House was meeting only for a few minutes, a perfunctory session being held to avoid a formal recess during the holidays.