Rockaway Reps Split On Payroll Tax, Unemployment
Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks voted along with 176 other Democrats and eight Republicans against a bill that would finally shut off any compromise on a bill that would have extended the payroll tax holiday, extend federally-funded unemployment benefits or prevent decreases in reimbursement for physicians who provide care to Medicare beneficiaries. Republican Congressman Bob Turner voted along with 225 other Republicans in favor of the bill. No Democrats voted along with the Republican majority.
What this means is that, unless some compromise is made before January 1, unemployment payments would end for anybody who has been receiving them for more than six months; every employee would find about $1,000 less in their pay envelopes over the next year and some doctors might well refuse Medicare recipients because the payment would be too low, experts say.
Republicans not only wanted the extensions stretched out for a year, but the bill also called for a cut in federal spending and the approval of a controversial pipeline project.
While President Barak Obama and Congressional Democrats believed they had worked out a deal along the lines of a bill that had been passed in the Democraticcontrolled Senate, the bill fell apart when Republicans reneged on the deal late on Monday.
The House bill has little chance of being passed by the Senate, insiders say.
The bill read, in part:
“Whereas a two-month extension of the payroll tax instead of a full-year extension would cause additional uncertainty and complexity for private-sector job creators already struggling in the current economy; whereas on December 31, without action by the Congress, the temporary payroll tax reduction will expire, leaving nearly 170 million Americans with less disposable income as the economy continues to struggle; whereas on January 1, 2012, without Congressional action, Medicare physician payments will be cut by 27 percent; Resolved, that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that any final measure to extend the payroll tax holiday, extend Federally-funded unemployment insurance benefits, or prevent the decreases in reimbursement for physicians who provide care to Medicare beneficiaries, the payroll tax should be extended through December 31, 2012; extend and reform Federally funded unemployment insurance benefits and eliminate for two years the dramatic cut in reimbursement for physicians who provide care to Medicare benefits and reduce spending from areas throughout the Federal Government, including a freeze on Congressional salaries, in order to protect the Social Security Trust Fund and approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.”
President Barack Obama reacted angrily to the bill.
After a miserable year being thwarted by his foes on Capitol Hill, Obama turned the tables when the Republican-led House blocked the bipartisan Senate compromise to extend a middle class payroll tax holiday for two months.
“Let’s not play brinksmanship, the American people are weary of it, they are tired of it ... I am calling on the speaker and the House Republican leadership to bring the Senate bill up for a vote,” Obama said.
If the tax holiday is not extended by January 1, payroll deductions will go up from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent and Americans stand to lose an average of $1,000 from their paychecks over the year.
House Republi-cans appear to face the political prospect of climbing down and accepting the Senate compromise or being blamed by Obama for taxes going up on 160 million Americans next year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to bring his chamber back from the Christmas and New Year break to hold talks on the measure, believing the row was solved when the compromised plan passed 89-10 on Saturday.
House Republican leaders now say that two months is insufficient and back Obama’s initial call for a year-long extension.
“I need the president to help out, all right?” Republican House Speaker Boehner shouted at a press conference, drawing cheers from his lawmakers.
Republicans have denied that Boehner originally signed off on the Senate compromise but was forced to backtrack because of a revolt among ultraconservative Tea Party members of his caucus.
Obama was in no mood to ease the pressure on his foe.
“Right now, the recovery is fragile but it is moving in the right direction,” Obama said.
The impasse “could have effects not only on families but on the economy as a whole,” the president added.
But Boehner wrote to Obama to ask him to persuade Reid to appoint negotiators to reconcile differing Senate and House approaches.
“There are still 11 days before the end of the year, and with so many Americans struggling, there is no reason they should be wasted,” said Boehner.
There were also signs that some Republicans believe their side may have sabotaged their own case in the run-up to Christmas with the showdown.
“It is harming the Republican Party. It is harming the view, if it’s possible anymore, of the American people about Congress,” Republican Senator John McCain said on CNN.
“We’ve got to get this resolved and with the realization that the payroll tax cut must remain in effect.”
On Wednesday, Congressman Turner issued a statement to The Wave.
“I believe that the leaders in the Senate should do what is right for the American people and call their members back to Washington so these matters can be addressed through a conference committee,” he said.
“The senate has a bill in front of them that would extend the payroll tax cut for a year, not just two months.
We need a long term solution, not another stopgap measure.
We cannot get this done without cooperation from the Senate.
The Senate bill creates the possibility of a February tax hike, which is unacceptable.”