Republican congressional leaders stressed a willingness Wednesday to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut due to expire Dec. 31, setting up a year-end clash with Democrats over how to pay for a provision at the heart of President Obama’s jobs program.

“We just think we shouldn’t be punishing job creators to pay for it,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, scorning a Democratic proposal to raise taxes on million-dollar income earners.

Instead, Senate Republicans called for a gradual reduction in the size of the federal bureaucracy, as well as steps to make sure that million-dollar earners don’t benefit from unemployment benefits or food stamps. They also recommended raising Medicare premiums for individuals with incomes over $750,000 a year.

House Speaker John Boehner said flatly that any tax cut extension will be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget to avoid raising federal deficits. Numerous Republican officials noted that Obama had said the same thing was true of the plan he unveiled in a nationally televised speech to Congress in September.

The events in Congress, coupled with Obama’s fresh appeal for renewal of the payroll tax cut while speaking Wednesday in Scranton, Pa., indicated that leaders in both parties want to seek a compromise less than a week after Congress’ high-profile supercommittee failed to find common ground on a related economic issue, a plan to reduce deficits.

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