Obama: Senate Payroll Bill 'Only Viable' Way to Prevent Tax Hike

President Barack Obama blamed "a faction of Republicans in the House" on Tuesday for the congressional impasse over extending the payroll tax cut and said a vote on the Senate's two-month extension is the "only viable way to prevent a tax hike on January 1."

Obama made the comments during a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room.

Earlier Tuesday, the US of House of Representatives approved a motion that effectively rejected the Senate's two-month payroll tax cut extension and formally requested a conference committee to alter the legislation.

Obama called on the House to hold a vote on the Senate bill, which passed Saturday morning in an 89-10 bipartisan vote.

"This is not a game," Obama said. "This shouldn't be politics as usual."

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House Republicans have said they would not approve the Senate's version of the bill because it extends the payroll tax cut by only two months, rather than a full year.

But Obama disputed that argument, calling the two-month bill simply an "insurance policy" that will give Congress time to extend the legislation early next year.

"The issue is that the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate worked on a one-year deal, made good progress, but determined that they needed more time to reach an agreement," Obama said.

The House's 229-193 vote threw the matter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who must decide whether to summon senators back to Washington to negotiate with the House.

If Congress does not act, the employee payroll tax rate is slated to rise two percentage points -- to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent -- on Jan. 1. Congress also must act to extend long-term unemployment benefits scheduled to expire Dec. 31, and to prevent a sharp drop in Medicare payments for doctors.

"We have more important things to worry about than politics right now, we have more important things to do than saving face or figuring out internal caucus politics," Obama said.