GOP updates payroll tax plan, but doc fix still up in the air

Republicans: Conference committee will weigh doc fix proposals

House Republicans on Monday said they will introduce legislation to extend the payroll tax break through the end of the year without cost offsets, but they will allow the conference committee to continue negotiating proposals to delay scheduled Medicare physician pay cuts.

The move comes after GOP leaders for weeks insisted that they would not accept extensions to the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits or a "doc fix" without offsets.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the plan is "not our first choice." However, they added, "Because the president and Senate Democrats have not allowed their conferees to support a responsible bipartisan agreement, today House Republicans will introduce a backup plan that would simply extend the payroll tax holiday for the remainder of the year while the conference negotiations continue regarding offsets, unemployment insurance, and the 'doc fix.'"

Democrats prefer single proposal, criticize GOP plan
Democratic leaders said they would prefer to advance a single piece of legislation that addresses all three issues, but did not flat out reject the House Republicans proposal.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the plan "to decouple the payroll tax jeopardizes both the ability of seniors to see their Medicare doctors and benefits for millions of Americans who lost their jobs. There is no reason all three of these priorities cannot proceed at the same time as both the House and Senate agreed."

Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) also was critical of the plan, saying it is "completely irresponsible to leave behind five million unemployed Americans whose benefits will expire and 47 million seniors and disabled Americans whose access to health care would be jeopardized" (Bendavid, Wall Street Journal, 2/14; Steinhauer, New York Times, 2/13; Mascaro, Los Angeles Times, 2/13; Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 2/13 [subscription required]; Kane, Washington Post, 2/13).

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