Local congressmen on Tuesday joined a Republican House majority in rejecting a Senate bill that would have extended the payroll tax cut for two months, putting both chambers back into gridlock 11 days before the tax cut expires for 160 million Americans.
The 229-193 vote came less than a week after the House passed a bill that included a yearlong payroll tax cut extension. But the Democratic-controlled Senate never considered that bill because it was linked to several unrelated conservative sweeteners, instead passing a two-month extension Saturday.
In rejecting that legislation Tuesday, House Republicans requested a conference with the Senate to work out differences and get something ironed out, but that could be problematic because senators have gone home for the holidays.
In a phone interview, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., said he supported a yearlong tax cut and described the two-month Senate proposal as "lazy," adding that it "doesn't do anybody any good."
"I think they did it because they just wanted to get home for Christmas," DesJarlais said. "If we're going to change how Washington works, we need to work until the job is done."
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., and U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., also voted to reject the two-month Senate proposal, echoing DesJarlais' position.
"What has happened this last week in Washington sums up why the American people are mad," Fleischmann said in a written statement.
No local lawmakers were named to a six-member House GOP conference committee tasked with negotiating with the Senate.
According to The New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he doesn't intend to call senators back to the Capitol before Dec. 31 - when the tax cut expires. President Barack Obama said the two-month Senate proposal is "the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on Jan. 1."
If the House and Senate cannot agree, working Americans can expect next year's payroll tax rate to jump to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent - about a $1,000 difference annually.
In a written statement, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the Senate's two-month extension "was designed in a back room of the Capitol by leaders looking to shield members up for re-election."
He was one of 10 senators who voted against the two-month proposal Saturday, citing a desire "to bring sanity and discipline to Washington."
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., supported the proposal, focusing his support on an included provision that requires Obama to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline within 60 days.
Corker implored Reid to forgo the holidays and reconvene the Senate so they can negotiate with the House and come to a resolution.
"Like most Americans, we should be at work this week and finish the business they elected us to do," he said.
Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6610.