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Senate Leaders Are at Temporary Impasse Over Year-End Agenda

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is pressing for the Senate to complete work on a $1 trillion measure to fund the government before taking up a payroll tax-cut extension, putting him at odds with Senate Democrats as lawmakers try to finish work for the year.

McConnell today objected to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s push for a speedy vote on a payroll tax-cut extension passed by the House yesterday on a 234-193 vote. McConnell said senators should first resolve issues in a spending measure to fund agencies for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

A temporary extension of agency spending authority expires Dec. 16, and without action by Congress a partial government shutdown will occur.

“That’s our most immediate concern and we should address it first because the deadline is just two days away,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.

Democratic leaders have said they are holding up the spending bill to force a compromise with Republicans on the payroll tax cut, set to expire at year’s end. Both sides disagree on such matters as how to pay for the tax cut, proposed changes to unemployment benefits and whether to include language speeding approval of a Canadian pipeline.

Reid wants the Senate to take up the House payroll tax bill that contains Republican priorities, knowing it will be rejected, to help spur final negotiations.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said on the Senate floor that McConnell is “living in a world of non-reality” to insist the spending measure move before a measure with the payroll tax cut benefiting the middle class.

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