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Boehner Says ‘We’re Ready to Go to Work’ on Payroll Tax Cut

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans in his chamber are “ready to go to work” on a one-year extension of a payroll-tax cut due to expire in January, as congressional leaders in both parties continued to pursue diverging paths in a year-end showdown.

The president and bipartisan congressional leaders “have all really asked for the same thing over the course of the last several months: Let’s extend the payroll tax credit for a year,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said today as he insisted both parties work toward a long-term tax fix.

In his office in the Capitol, Boehner and other Republican leaders convened a meeting of eight key lawmakers in their party appointed to take part in talks for an extension. Democrats in both chambers are urging the House to pass a bill approved by a bipartisan Senate majority to extend the payroll tax cut for two months. House Democrats say they won’t appoint negotiators.

Also today in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Boehner reiterating that he is ready to negotiate on a yearlong extension of the tax cut if the House first will pass the Senate’s two-month measure to allow time for talks.

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

How to Pay

Republicans and Democrats disagree on how to pay for a yearlong payroll-tax cut. The House rejected the Senate-approved plan yesterday on a 229-193 vote after passing its own proposal earlier this month.

Paychecks for 160 million workers will be reduced in January unless lawmakers break the stalemate that threatens to harm U.S. economic growth and poses political difficulties for a Congress with low public approval ratings.

Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney said today they favored a one-year extension of the tax cut.

“I’d like to see the payroll tax extended,” Romney said on MSNBC. “You’d like to get as much as possible. But this is not going to turn the economy around.”

Gingrich, campaigning in Des Moines, Iowa, blamed the Senate for the impasse.

“Reid is deliberately game-playing by sending the Senate home,” Gingrich told reporters. “It’s a total dereliction of duty.”

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bloomberg.net

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