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A break in the payroll-tax-cut standoff

After days of silence, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is calling on the House GOP to pass the two-month payroll-tax-cut extension -- and for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) to appoint negotiators to work with the House on a long-term deal after that extension is passed.

"House Republicans sensibly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms," his statement says. "These goals are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both."

House Speaker John Boehner's office had this response: "The House and Senate have two different bills, but the same goal," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. "That is why we believe, as Senator McConnell suggested, the two chambers should work to reconcile the two bills so that we can provide a full year of payroll tax relief -- and do it before year's end."

This morning, Boehner's office says he called President Obama to urge action on a one-year extension, but president Obama declined.

"Today, Speaker Boehner called President Obama to discuss the Speaker's desire to provide a full year of tax relief for American families before December 31st," a Boehner aide said in a written statement. "With Senator Reid having declined to call his Members back to Washington this week to join the House in negotiating a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut, the Speaker proposed that the President send members of his economic policy team up to Congress to find a way to accommodate the President's full-year request. The Speaker explained his concern that flaws in the Senate-passed bill will be unworkable for many small business job creators. He reiterated that if their shared goal is a one-year bill, there is no reason an agreement cannot be reached before year's end. The President declined the Speaker's offer."

A Democratic leadership aide said Senate Democrats are "happy" to begin negotiating with the House once Boehner says he'll hold a vote and pass the Senate two-month payroll-tax-cut extension. 

"We have been saying all along that if the House passes the Senate's compromise to ensure there is no tax hike on Jan. 1, we can immediately begin negotiating the full-year extension," the aide said. "It's important to now hear from the Speaker. As we have said, we are happy to start negotiating a full-year extension when the House passes the short-term compromise."

Here is McConnell's full statement:

"The House and Senate have both passed bipartisan bills to require the President to quickly make a decision on whether to support thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs through the Keystone XL pipeline, and to extend unemployment insurance, the temporary payroll tax cut and seniors' access to medical care. There is no reason why Congress and the President cannot accomplish all of these things before the end of the year.  House Republicans sensibly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms. These goals are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both. Working Americans have suffered enough from the President's failed economic policies and shouldn't face the uncertainty of a New Year's Day tax hike. Leader Reid should appoint conferees on the long-term bill and the House should pass an extension that locks in the thousands of Keystone XL pipeline jobs, prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions."