President Barack Obama, rebuffed by Congress on a yearlong extension of a Social Security payroll tax cut, said Saturday that it would be "inexcusable'" for lawmakers not to lengthen the short-term deal when they return from their holiday break.
The bill, passed by the Senate shortly before the president spoke briefly at the White House, would extend the tax cut and long-term jobless benefits for just two months _ a partial victory for Obama that also sets the stage for another tax fight in February.
While pleased by the Senate vote, Obama said "it would be inexcusable for Congress not to further extend this middle-class tax cut for the rest of the year. It should be a formality, and hopefully it's done with as little drama as possible when they get back in January."
He added, "This really isn't hard. There are plenty of ways to pay for these proposals."
Obama has rallied support for the extension of the payroll tax cut in recent weeks, arguing that failure by Congress to extend the cuts would raise taxes on middle-class families and undermine the economic recovery.
The plan is a modest step forward for Obama's year-end jobs agenda. It renews the cut in the Social Security payroll tax for 160 million workers and provides additional unemployment benefits averaging about $300 a week for millions of people who have been out of work for six months or more.
Democrats and Obama sought to pay for the additional payroll tax cuts by placing a surcharge on individuals and couples with $1 million or more in income but Republicans opposed the tax increases. The additional costs would be covered by raising fees on new mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Administration.
Obama said his preference, "and the preference of most Americans, is that we ask the wealthiest few Americans to pay their fair share and corporations to do without special taxpayer subsidies to cover some of the costs. But I think that it's important for us to get it done."
As a condition for GOP support of the payroll tax measure, Obama had to agree to accelerate a decision on a proposed a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that promises thousands of jobs.
Obama made no reference to the pipeline in his remarks.
Senior administration officials said the Republican attempts to speed up the decision on the pipeline would ultimately undermine their work to get the project built quickly because the State Department has said an expedited process would not give them enough time to conduct a proper review.
The most likely outcome, they said, is that the project would not go forward next spring. The officials only spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the deliberations.
The House is expected to consider the payroll tax cut measure early next week. Obama said he was hopeful "we're going to be able to make sure that when everybody gets back next year we extend this further, all the way to the end of the year."