Payroll Tax Cut Fight: 'Wall Street Journal' Editorial Rips Boehner, McConnell

The Wall Street Journal editorial page attacked congressional Republicans Wednesday for possibly losing the payroll tax cut standoff to President Barack Obama.

GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.

House Republicans killed a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits and a provision avoiding Medicare payment cuts to to doctors Tuesday by a 229-193 vote. The Senate voted Saturday by an 89-10 margin to extend all three for two months. All three provisions expire on Jan. 1. House Republicans want the Senate to return and negotiate over a compromise plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he won't negotiate until the House approves the Senate's package.

The conservative editorial board wrote that the Republicans have "thoroughly botched the politics." The board also added that Obama is in a "stronger re-election position today than he was a year ago."

After Jan. 1, the payroll tax paid by workers will rise from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent and benefits for the long-term unemployed will expire if Congress does not act. Doctors will face a 27 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements scheduled to take effect on Jan. 18.

UPDATE: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) approvingly tweeted the editorial Wednesday. "WSJ is right on the mark here," he wrote.

CLARIFICATION: This post has been clarified to reflect that Medicare plans to hold claims for the first 10 business days of 2012 and implement reimbursement cuts on Jan. 18, though the provision expires on Jan. 1.

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