POLITICS
11/21/2011 09:51 pm ET | Updated Nov 22, 2011

White House To Keep 'Laser-Like Focus' On Payroll Tax Cut, Jobless Benefits

WASHINGTON -- Now that the super committee has officially failed and with time running out before Congress is set to adjourn for more than a month, the White House is throwing all of its weight behind passing a handful of its top priorities.

Congress is set to adjourn around Dec. 16 and senior administration officials say they play to use the coming weeks to double down on lawmakers to extend the payroll tax cut, provide infrastructure funds aimed at putting construction workers back to work, and extend unemployment insurance.

"Those things have to be dealt with," a senior administration official told reporters during a Monday night briefing.

"We're going to have a laser-like focus on that over the next month to make sure that the message is, 'You can't go home without meeting those responsibilities,'" said the official. "I think that's what people want us to focus on."

The White House also quietly signaled that President Barack Obama may not insist on offsetting the costs of a payroll tax cut extension. Administration officials waffled on the question earlier this month.

"I think the critical thing is to extend the tax cut," a second administration official said several times when asked about Obama requiring an offset.

"In the context of a balanced approach, one obviously would not want to have any of the drag on the economy hit right now. So the issue was never, 'Do you pay for it right now?'" said this official. "Because [a payroll tax cut extension] is not likely to be the context of a major deficit reduction bill, I think we're going to have to look at it in the overall context."

Obama will begin stumping on the issue on Tuesday, when he heads to New Hampshire to give remarks on the need to extend the tax cut. He plans to make the case that without congressional action this year, middle-class families will get hit with a $1,000 tax increase.

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