Murkowski calls Senate's plan for tax cut extension reasonable

JUNEAU -- U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday that she believes Congress will break the impasse over a payroll tax cut extension; she's just not sure how.

Murkowski told reporters in Anchorage the stalemate could mean a showdown between the House and Senate. She said it also could mean a meltdown.

The House on Tuesday rejected a Senate plan to extend a payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for two months. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who voted with the majority, considers the Senate plan "unacceptable, because it does nothing more than kick the can down the road," said Young's spokesman, Luke Miller.

Majority House Republicans sought negotiations on a longer-term proposal, but the Senate had already left Washington for the holidays. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., ruled out talks until the House passes the Senate plan.

Without agreement by year's end, payroll taxes will rise by nearly $20 a week for a worker earning a $50,000 salary. Murkowski said a $1,000 tax increase is not something American families can take on right now.

About 2 million people also could lose unemployment benefits, and doctors would see cuts in Medicare payments.

Murkowski, R-Alaska, called the Senate plan a reasonable compromise that provides some additional time to find a more permanent solution. She said it's that important Congress break through the impasse.

Murkowski also talked about other recent events in Washington, including passage of an omnibus spending bill that included language that will have the Interior Department, rather than Environmental Protection Agency, regulate pollution from drilling ships and support vessels in Arctic waters. Murkowski said this was an effort for Alaska to achieve "regulatory parity" with oil and gas producing areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Associated Press