Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 | 4:28 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Nevada's delegation in the U.S. Senate, both Harry Reid, a Democrat, and Dean Heller, a Republican, agree it’s important that Congress pass a two-month payroll tax and unemployment insurance bill and have called on a recalcitrant House to move it through.
In the House however, Nevada's representatives remain divided on the matter.
“The fact that the Senate sent back a two-month policy that is truly unable to be implemented for the people actually responsible for making payroll shows how disconnected [senators] are from the real world,” said Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who called the Senate-passed payroll tax cut bill “utterly ridiculous.”
Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, agreeing with Heck, called the 60-day extension “a can-kick of Olympic proportions,” in a statement this afternoon. “Nevadans deserve to know what the future hold for them on the issues of taxes, unemployment and medical care for longer than the next 60 days...That is why I am more than willing to work for the next two weeks to provide some longer-term certainty.”
But Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley thinks passing the two-month patch is important, given the situation in Congress.
“Nevada’s middle-class families who still have a job cannot afford a massive tax increase in January,” she said on the House floor this afternoon. “Thanks to the Tea Party extremists in the House of Representatives...they’re holding middle-class families hostage, they’re holding unemployed people hostage and they’re holding seniors hostage.”
The payroll tax cut extension, which also incorporates an extension of unemployment benefits and a fix to the reimbursement rates paid to doctors who see Medicare and Medicaid patients, is the last pressing item of congressional business to finish before the end of the year, and one which senators thought they had put to rest this weekend when they passed a two-month extension of the programs by a vote of 89 to 10.
The House is now rejecting that as too-short a solution. And the House will likely vote down the two-month payroll tax package tonight.
Democratic and Republican senators are warning against seeking the perfect solution right now.
“There is no question we need to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance for the entire year...However, there is no reason to hold up the short-term extension while a more comprehensive deal is being worked out,” Heller said today. “What is playing out in Washington, D.C., this week is about political leverage, not about what’s good for the American people.”
“I have always sought a year-long extension. I have been trying to forge one for weeks, and I am happy to continue negotiating one once we have made sure middle-class families will not wake up to a tax increase on January 1st,” Reid said today. “So before we re-open negotiations on a year-long extension, the House of Representatives must protect middle-class families by passing the overwhelmingly bipartisan compromise that Republicans negotiated.”
Senators spent the last few weeks hashing through longer-term payroll tax bills, with Reid and Heller at the center of that fight. The disagreements mostly came down to how best to pay for the legislative changes; unable to fully resolve those differences, the two sides settled on and passed a two-month extension.