The U.S. House and Senate were "very close" to a deal on extending the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits when the Senate called off talks and went home, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told CNBC Wednesday.
Now the House leader wants President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., to come to Capitol Hill and continue negotiations for a full-year payroll tax extension.
"Here we sit on Capitol Hill almost a mile from where the president is. Why isn’t the president here trying to work out the differences that are left? They’re not big differences," said the Virginia Republican. "We want to make sure working people have certainty their taxes are not going to go up in the next year. That’s it."
The Senate passed a two-month payroll tax extension last week and promptly went home for the holidays. The House rejected that bill, along party lines, with the Republican majority saying it wants a full-year extension.
Republican Cantor said it was 'inexcusable" not to extend the measure for a full year. Under the Senate bill, "we'll be back in this fight in 60 days," he said.
Instead, Cantor called on both congressional houses to "set a tone for the new year that we can work together, we can get this done. There is time. I would ask the President and Harry Reid to resolve this for the American people."
Some House Republicans didn't originally want a payroll tax extension because the money goes to the Social Security trust fund, which Cantor says has actuarial problems.
But Republicans now see the payroll tax extension as a way to allow people to "keep more of their hard-earned money and have the certainty of planning," Cantor said. "How can we expect people to budget their household needs when don’t know what their tax liability is going to be for months and months?"
The Senate passage of the two-month extension followed protracted debate among both houses over the shape of a full-year extension. Provisions for a tax on high-income earners and sanctioning construction of a major Midwest pipeling project led to what seemed insurmountable division between Republicans and Democrats. The two-month extension was seen as a way past that roadblock.