David Hawkings, CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing
We're about halfway through a two-month payroll tax break extension that expired at the end of 2011. A bi-partisan conference of lawmakers is negotiating a deal to extend them beyond the end of February, but as David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing explains, they have not yet detailed a plan.
What do we know about any progress?
We don't know anything official and formal from the conferees. The way it normally works is that they appear in public once, establish their bargaining positions in public, and then go into a sort of "cone of silence" and work out a deal.
"The only evidence we have that they're getting close, which is sort of official, is that John Boehner went on the Sunday shows yesterday and said that he is totally confident that there will be a deal fairly quickly -- fairly quickly in Congress speak usually means about a month, which is about how much time they have left."
Do you expect this to go to the wire?
Probably so. That is despite the fact that both parties have come to the conclusion that they want to extend these three main provisions of the bill -- the tax holiday on Social Security payroll taxes, the long-term unemployment benefits, and maintaining the current formula for the way doctors who treat medicare payments are fixed.
What they haven't agreed on is how to pay the $160 billion cost -- that's a ten-year cost. There's a lot of wrangling, and no clear consensus on how to do it.