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Payroll tax cut: proposals galore but consensus eludes

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In a nod to conservatives, the House GOP package might also advance the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, linking Canadian oil to Texas refineries, a project the White House has delayed.

House GOP leaders will try again Thursday to rally their caucus to back a new plan. So far, it’s been a tough sell. Most Republicans oppose any move to pay for extending the payroll tax cuts by raising taxes on the highest-income taxpayers. Some GOP lawmakers even resist the notion of extending the payroll tax cut, on grounds that it undermines the long-term stability of Social Security and drives the nation deeper into debt.

Many conservative lawmakers emerged from a meeting with GOP leaders Dec. 2 critical of any plan that would make up for the costs of extending the payroll tax cut with general revenue dollars. The US government now borrows about 40 cents of every dollar it spends. Shifting Social Security costs onto general revenue digs deeper deficits, requires more borrowing, and makes it less likely that the Bush-era tax cuts can be extended after Dec. 31, 2012, when they are set to expire, they say.

“I’m honestly conflicted,” says Rep. Trent Franks (R) of Arizona. “I’ve never voted for a tax increase in my life, and certainly don’t intend to do so now. The Bush tax cuts will expire next year, and I’m hoping for some type of agreement to prevent that.”

There are some signs of bipartisan initiatives to break the gridlock.

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