White House: 'What Does $40 Mean to You?'

By Susan Jones | December 21, 2011 | 7:04 AM EST

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks of the floor of the House chamber on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011, in Washington. The House rejected legislation to extend a payroll tax cut and jobless benefits for two months, drawing a swift rebuke from President Barack Obama that Republicans were threatening higher taxes on 160 million workers on Jan. 1. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) - Trying to stoke outrage against Republicans who voted against a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, the Obama White House is urging "working" people to "tell us what your family will give up if your taxes increase."

"Too many just don't understand the perspective of a working family," David Plouffe, senior adviser to the president, wrote in a Dec. 20 email. "They need to hear what it's like to be part of the middle class in this country."

The White House says an extension of the payroll tax cut will save a "typical" family around $40 a paycheck. But, Plouffe wrote, "A lot of people in Washington don't understand what these tax cuts mean."

As expected, House Republicans on Tuesday rejected a Senate-passed bill that would have extended the payroll tax cut for two months. Republicans are demanding a full-year extension of the payroll tax cut. The House vote to move to formal negotiations with the Senate was 229-193.

Payroll taxes fund Social Security, and as CNSNews has reported, critics say this is not the time to be siphoning money from the retirement trust fund.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration urged working, middle-class families to "send us your stories," which will be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and WhiteHouse.gov. "We'll highlight stories like yours publicly so that they're part of the debate here in Washington," Plouffe wrote. "What does $40 mean to you? What's missing here in Washington is your voice."

House Republicans, meanwhile, are demanding that President Obama call the Senate back into session: "A formal House-Senate conference committee can resolve the differences between our year-long tax cut extension and Democrats’ short-term bill," House Speaker John Boehner said. "We can avoid a needless tax hike on middle class families if Senate Democrats will work with us and appoint negotiators to extend the payroll tax cut for another year and help create new jobs.”

President Obama told Boehner and House Republicans to "put politics aside," although there’s plenty of politics on both sides.

The president insists that the only way to prevent payroll taxes from rising on Jan. 1 is for the House to pass the temporary fix laid out in the Senate bill. Obama says the Republicans' refusal to pass the Senate bill "could have effects not just on families but on the economy as a whole."

Even some Republicans are criticizing their own team: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the House failure to pass the Senate bill "is harming the Republican Party," not to mention the American people's opinion of Congress. “We’ve got to get this resolved and with the realization that the payroll tax cut must remain in effect,” McCain said Tuesday on CNN's "Situation Room."

McCain, who voted for the Senate bill extending the payroll tax cut for two months, joined Boehner in urging both parties to resolve their difference in a conference committee.

But some House Republicans say extending the payroll tax cut is not the solution: “Unless we summon the courage to reform our entitlement programs, we shouldn’t be reducing the dedicated revenue stream,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).  “The extension of the payroll tax holiday will hasten the insolvency of Social Security and exacerbate our fiscal crisis.”

Barring any further action in Congress, payroll taxes will go up on Jan. 1, physicians will receive lower reimbursement for treating Medicare patients, and unemployment benefits will run out for an estimated 2 million people.