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Congress: GOP retreat -- or trap -- on payroll tax cut?

“In a major tactical shift, House Republican leaders Monday said they would sign off on a payroll tax cut extension that is not paid for, marking an attempt to both pressure Democrats and get the issue behind them,” Roll Call reports. “Bruised from a months-long battle to pay for the $100 billion payroll tax holiday, Republicans are acknowledging that they would rather give in on a straight extension than fight on for spending cuts that Senate Democrats will not accept.”

More: “A bill from GOP leaders could come to the House floor as soon as Wednesday. Though Democrats immediately groused, Republicans are hoping they will find such an offer impossible to shun.” Democrats want an unemployment benefits extension and the Medicare Doc fix included.

The Hill’s headline: “Republicans retreat on tax cut.”

“With an end-of-February deadline approaching, House Republican leaders said today they may push a vote this week on extending the payroll tax cut -- but not unemployment benefits or a delay of cuts in fees to doctors who treat Medicare patients,” USA Today notes.

Yet the New York Times notes, "By separating the payroll tax from jobless benefits, Republicans have somewhat boxed in Democrats, forcing them to decide whether to accept a stand-alone tax cut that touches nearly all working Americans — and is generally more popular than the additional unemployment insurance — or hold out for a package that covers all three programs, at a cost of about $160 billion."