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Payroll tax deal close: Why did Republicans back down? (+video)

Senate Republicans came to a realization on the payroll tax cut fight: We got the policy right but the politics wrong and it’s time to move on. Specifics of the deal are still being hashed out.

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Congressional leaders are gauging lawmakers' reactions to a tentative deal extending a 2 percentage-point payroll tax cut and extra jobless benefits through 2012. Speaker of the House John Boehner said the deal was done to end political games.
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After months of impasse, Congress is on track to extend a payroll tax cut and other provisions affecting millions Americans that were set to expire Feb. 29.

House Republicans wanted offsets, or spending cuts, to make up for the nearly $100 billion cost of extending the tax cut holiday through 2012. 

But the politics wasn't working out for Republicans. On Monday, House speaker John Boehner, flanked by majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and majority whip Kevin McCarthy of California, offered to back an extension of the payroll tax holiday without offsets. 

House Republican leaders faced their caucus late Tuesday with a blunt message: We got the policy right but the politics wrong – and now it’s time to move on, they said, according to members at the closed meeting.

“This hasn’t been an exercise in public relations that we were winning, and we need to get this behind us so we can get on to something new,” said nine-term Rep. Steven LaTourette (R) of Ohio, summarizing the pitch from leadership.

Some Republicans left Tuesday's closed meeting noncommittal on whether they could back a comprehensive deal, unless it involved significant reform or offsets for the other elements of the package: extending unemployment insurance and blocking an automatic 27 percent drop in reimbursement rates for physicians treating Medicare patients – the so-called “doc fix.”

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