WASHINGTON -- Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) may have gotten a dose of populism for his showdown against Elizabeth Warren -- or maybe he prefers helping people who have jobs to aiding the unemployed.
Brown declared Tuesday that he favors extending a payroll tax cut without finding a way to make up for the lost revenue, while last year he opposed extending unemployment benefits unless Congress offset the $56 billion cost.
It's a position that puts him at odds with both his own leadership and with Democrats, and comes as he's facing a tough election challenge from the popular former consumer watchdog, Warren.
Democrats have proposed a 3.1 percent cut in payroll taxes that would cost about $255 billion. They would pay for it with a surtax on earnings above $1 million.
Brown's Republican leaders said Tuesday that they would back extending the cut enacted last year if, this time, it is offset.
"We need to be paying for a measure like this that's temporary," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. "And I think in the end we will pay for it. We'll offer an alternative to the one that's being proposed in the Senate."
But Brown saw no reason to go with the Democrats' plan to tax the rich or with McConnell's to find the cash elsewhere, noting that Congress did not pay for last year's break.
"It wasn't paid for before, so why is it paid for now?" Brown told several reporters Tuesday. "Through economic activity, it'll pay for itself. I think we need to get it out there, get the money in people's hands."
Brown had a different take when it came to extending emergency unemployment benefits last December for people who were running out, and cast the deciding vote against an extension.
"I have complete and total sympathy and understanding, and I want to help," Brown said according to a Boston Globe account of his vote. "More than anybody here, I want to help. But to just keep throwing money that's not paid for at a problem ... makes no sense to me."
Unemployment benefits were ultimately extended after President Obama cut a deal with Republicans to also extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two more years.