Representative Sessions Sees Months-Long Payroll Tax Extension

Congress probably will pass a months-long extension of an expiring payroll tax cut and expanded unemployment benefits as lawmakers finish work for the year, said Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, a member of the Republican leadership team.

“I think it will be short-term,” Sessions said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. Sessions, 56, who earlier criticized the idea of extending the current reduction in payroll taxes that fund Social Security, said he views it now as a “good deal” if it’s paired with other aspects of a plan to boost job growth.

Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political and fundraising arm of the House Republicans, said he is optimistic his party’s House candidates will perform well next year, regardless of whether former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the current front-runner, or former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is at the top of the ticket. Both can effectively make a case they can expand the economy while taming government spending, he said.

“Newt Gingrich understands exactly how to get this done, and so does Mitt Romney,” Sessions said. “They’ve both proven it, and Mitt Romney grew a lot of jobs.”

Sessions, a member of the House Republican “Values Action Team” that coordinates legislation with Christian conservative groups, also defended Gingrich’s personal past, which includes two divorces and acknowledged adultery.

‘Family Values System’

“If you look at him in aggregate or in the substance behind him, he deeply believes in the value of the American people, our family values system, which is directly related to growing jobs and having families be responsible for their own problems,” Sessions said.

Sessions said he is convinced the Republican party can regain an edge with the public before 2012’s presidential and congressional elections, though Republicans are taking a hit in polls. A Dec. 7-11 Pew Research Center survey found 40 percent of adults blame Republican leaders for a “do-nothing” Congress, while 23 percent blame Democrats.

Sessions said the lower approval ratings stem in part from more than two dozen debates among Republican presidential candidate in recent months, in which candidates attacked each other. He also pointed to the rise and fall of various contenders in polls.

“We’ve had a candidate up for two or three weeks and then a candidate down for two or three weeks,” he said. “We’ll get our footing real quickly.”

Payroll Tax

Sessions spoke as Congress worked to complete its business at the end of an unproductive year. Both parties were working to resolve disputes on the payroll-tax measure, which also will postpone looming cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors. Republican leaders in both chambers have favored a one-year extension, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is proposing a two-month continuation as a fall-back.

Sessions also ran the NRCC in 2010 when House Republicans gained a net 63 seats and took the House majority.

In the interview, he credited House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, with a fundraising advantage during this election cycle. While the NRCC has raised $48.7 million so far, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has raised $52 million.

Credit to Pelosi

“Let’s give credit to Nancy Pelosi,” he said, pointing to her longstanding ability to reap campaign donations, including during a stint in the mid-1980s as national finance chairman for Senate Democrats’ campaign committee. “She is out all over this country talking to the left wing of this country. They love her.”

Sessions also defended Representative Vern Buchanan of Florida, his own finance chairman, against ethics allegations.

The Federal Election Commission, in a May report, said a Florida car dealership formerly owned by Buchanan illegally reimbursed employees’ donations to his congressional campaigns. The FEC asked a federal judge in Florida to fine the company $67,900.

News organizations, including Politico, have reported that Buchanan is the subject of a Justice Department investigation into the matter, and that the House Office of Congressional Ethics is also looking into the allegations.

“Vern Buchanan has been forthright and brought the information to the committee and to the Department of Justice himself,” Sessions said, adding that he has “confidence” in Buchanan.

Sessions said he remains optimistic that Republicans will expand their 25-seat House majority in next year’s elections. He predicted Republicans will gain 16 seats, even as House Democrats and many political analysts project they will lose some districts.

“I’ve been saying for quite some time, publicly, plus- 16,” Sessions said. “We’re going to pick up seats across this country.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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