Obama Tells Boehner Senate Payroll Tax Plan Is ‘Only Option’

President Barack Obama urged House Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on Senate legislation for a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, saying it’s the “only option,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

The president called the Ohio Republican today in an effort to break the impasse over the tax cut, which is set to expire on Dec. 31. Carney said Obama also called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The White House is “confident” the Senate bill can pass the House, he said.

“The ball is in the House’s court,” Carney said at a briefing. He declined to characterize Boehner’s response.

Obama has said the only way to avert a payroll tax increase for workers in January is for the House to send him a two-month deal the Senate passed Dec. 17.

The Republican-controlled House voted 229-193 yesterday, with no Democratic support, to reject the two-month bipartisan Senate measure and call for a yearlong extension of the tax cut.

Asked what Obama offered Boehner to get a vote, Carney said, “there is no political quid pro quo here.”

House Republicans say they want to extend the tax cut for a full year rather than the two months approved by the Senate. Carney said that while Obama wants the yearlong extension, the shorter term plan will give lawmakers time to work out differences over how to pay for it.

Reid Letter

Reid, in a letter to Boehner today, reiterated that he won’t negotiate on a longer-term extension of the tax cut and other expiring laws until the two-month deal is completed.

“I am fully confident that we can work out our differences and find common ground on a yearlong extension,” the Nevada Democrat wrote. “But in the meantime, families should not have to worry that they will wake up to a tax increase on Jan. 1, 2012.”

Carney said Reid repeated during his conversation with Obama the commitment to get the tax cut extended for the full year.

The lower payroll-tax rate of 4.2 percent is set to expire Dec. 31, when the employee portion of the tax that funds Social Security would return to 6.2 percent. Extending the tax cut was a central element of the jobs plan that Obama proposed in September.

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at mtalev@bloomberg.net

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

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