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House rejects Senate payroll tax cut plan

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011 | 10:20 p.m.

WASHINGTON—Unemployed? Living paycheck-to-paycheck? Brace yourself, because the 112th Congress is at its worst impasse yet, and unless either Democrats or Republicans have some sort of come-to-Jesus moment over the Christmas holiday, payroll tax breaks and unemployment benefits are going to be lost in the logjam.

Republicans in the House of Representatives rejected the Senate’s two-month compromise to extend payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits and guarantee Medicare and Medicaid providers a fair reimbursement rate today, voting instead to appoint eight members to conference with the Senate by a vote of 229 to 193.

But Senate and House Democrats, President Barack Obama, and many Senate Republicans -- including Nevada Sen. Dean Heller -- say there’s no time or reason to drag out the procedural process, not when there’s a bill out there that 89 lawmakers in the Senate have already agreed to.

“House Republicans are trying to sentence this middle-class tax cut to death by committee,” Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat, said on the House floor this afternoon. “Washington Republicans had no problem passing taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil companies making record profits. They had no problem passing tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas ... but when it comes to tax cuts to middle class families they say no, no we can’t do this, we have to send it back to another committee: conference, let’s kill it.”

Berkley is making a bid for the Senate in 2012 against Heller, who has occupied the seat since John Ensign stepped down amid scandal this year. Berkley and Heller don’t often agree on policy, but on the payroll tax cut compromise, they are both pointing an accusing finger at House Republicans.

“What is playing out in Washington, D.C., this week is about political leverage, not about what's good for the American people,” Heller said in a statement Monday. “Congress can work out a solution without stopping the payroll tax cut extension for the middle class, jeopardizing seniors’ access to health care, or threatening unemployment insurance.”

But Nevada’s Republican members of the House have a different interpretation: They say this is about upholding the processes of Congress, and about the House not bending to the big Senate bully across the building.

“We have regular order,” Nevada Rep. Joe Heck said. “When each house passes a bill that’s different, you go to conference and negotiate a compromise.”

“I think our work on the bill is entitled to every bit as much respect as the Senate’s, and the fact that the Senate doesn’t think it is is not my problem,” Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei said, adding that he expected to be back in Washington the week after Christmas. “What is the magic of the 60 days?”

Conference committees are often the way House and Senate lawmakers resolve differences between similar pieces of legislation. But they aren’t always or even often used, and when they are, their proceedings are in private -- as such, they are an unfamiliar part of the process to most people, even those regularly glued to C-SPAN.

Even if it were a more familiar item, the public’s been soured on special committees lately, thanks to the recent failure of Reid’s “super committee” to get anything done on debt reduction.

House Republicans have been arguing that Nevadans dependent on unemployment checks deserve the security of knowing the program will be around for a year, and small businesses can’t implement a two-month patch to extend unemployment benefits and decreased payroll taxes through February.

“You can’t do patchwork in two-month increments,” Heck said. “That’s been the problem with basically pulls the rug out from underneath Nevadans.”

This morning, the U.S. Treasury refuted the claims that it would be too difficult to process a short-term change to the tax code, calling the prospect “feasible.”

While most lawmakers have expressed a preference for a one-year solution, it has eluded negotiators in the Senate, where a strong bipartisan majority decided that the security of the present moment trumps the security of planning for the long-term.

“It is unconscionable that Speaker Boehner is blocking a bipartisan compromise that would protect middle-class families from the tax hike looming on January 1st – a compromise that Senator McConnell and I negotiated at Speaker Boehner’s own request,” Reid said. “Speaker Boehner won’t let the House hold an up-or-down vote on the Senate’s bipartisan compromise because he knows it would pass.”

Democrats pointed out Tuesday that the majority of the conferees Boehner appointed Tuesday have spoken dismissively about payroll tax cuts in the past, adding more fuel to their open speculation that the focus on a conference committee process is a House "Republican ploy" to kill the bill.

Republicans shot back Tuesday that Democrats just don't want to accept the proposals Republicans are making to pay for the additional extension. Democrats wanted to pay for the extended payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits with a surtax on million-plus incomes; Republicans want to add a rollback of industrial boiler regulations and limitations on unemployment eligibility (a proposal they argue came from Obama) to pay for their preferred year-long package.

In the midst of the sniping, there are consequences at stake that hit close to home.

The impact of unemployment checks and payroll taxes are felt by by every active and jobless worker in Nevada on a weekly or bi-weekly basis; if the program ends on January 1, 1.2 million Nevada workers would see their paychecks start to shrink immediately, and over 28,000 Nevadans would see their unemployment benefits end prematurely over the first seven weeks of the New Year.

“Let’s be clear: Right now, the bipartisan compromise that was reached on Saturday is the only viable way to prevent a tax hike on January 1st,” President Barack Obama said Tuesday. “The clock is ticking; time is running out.”

There are 11 days left in the calendar year. But if you ask a House Republican, that's 11 days to come up with a longer-term plan that everyone says they want anyway.

“There’s a wholesale disregard of a reasonable time frame that everybody’s on the record saying they want,” Amodei said. “Eleven days is a long time in political terms.”

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  1. Some Americans are more equal than others.

  2. "Republicans in the House of Representatives rejected the Senate's two-month compromise to extend payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits and guarantee Medicare and Medicaid providers a fair reimbursement rate today, voting instead to appoint eight members to conference with the Senate by a vote of 229 to 193."

    It has been reported, from learned sources, that out of the eight members, a total of five of them are against the payroll tax cuts for the middle class AT ALL.

    And they are unbending in this fanaticism, even before the stupid conference starts.

    So, basically, it's already been determined to be a waste of time and another example of Tea/Republican Party political kabuki theater.

    "'We have regular order,' Nevada Rep. Joe Heck said. 'When each house passes a bill that's different, you go to conference and negotiate a compromise.'"

    No, sir, let me correct you. The current construction of Tea/Republican Party follows only disorder and chaos. When there is a choice between doing something for the country and yet another Tea/Republican Party attack against President Obama and his administration, there suddenly erupts a resounding cry of "BANZAI!" Because that's all they know.

    The useless Congressman Heck is perfectly content with that arrangement. He has shown it to us by his votes.

    I might add that it's laughable the awkwardness of the word "compromise" being uttered out of his lips. His party actually does not understand what exactly that word means, other than they believe to their very souls that's something the other side of the aisle does, and they don't have to perform.

    "'I think our work on the bill is entitled to every bit as much respect as the Senate's, and the fact that the Senate doesn't think it is is not my problem,' Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei said, adding that he expected to be back in Washington the week after Christmas. 'What is the magic of the 60 days?'"

    Besides the fact Congressman Amodei is a totally out of touch freshman and, by this statement, puts him at odds not with the American people, but his OWN party, it just makes him sound more and more like an imbecile.

    The sixty days he mentions is laughable because the original position on this by the House Republicans was they did not want a one year extension to this, or anything at all.

    But now, since things have spiraled out of their control, they all of a sudden are yelling about this is only short term and it should be longer.

    Don't make sense after you look at their original position of not even wanting to do it. Amodei needs to probably shut up and sit on a back bench in the House and wait to get voted out and replaced.

  3. As far as Heller goes, he's fighting for his political life. It's advantageous for him to take another stance on this issue. He's only playing up to the voters.

    But the voters out here know he replaced a scoundrel from before that actually put Nevada politics in disgrace, not to mention he is the only person in American history that voted not once, but twice for the incredibly stupid and unfair Ryan health care plan that would essentially gut Medicare and replace it with a horribly inadequate system that would only kill off people through neglect and indifference, all so their precious filthy rich get those Bush tax stays in place FOREVER.

    "There are 11 days left in the calendar year. But if you ask a House Republican, that's 11 days to come up with a longer-term plan that everyone says they want anyway.

    'There's a wholesale disregard of a reasonable time frame that everybody's on the record saying they want,' Amodei said. 'Eleven days is a long time in political terms.'"

    Eleven days is not a long time at all in Tea/Republican Party warped politics that seems to have no cohesiveness nor unity.

    Those eleven days will just go by with nothing happening.

    This is actually a certainty.

    People need to be reminded that this is not the first time Tea/Republican Party brinksmanship has been followed. It's now officially the fourth instance this year they clearly reveal their incompetence to the American people.

    How is eleven days going to make any difference at all?

    Especially in light of the previous three debacles. You ask me, this is even worse.

    Because now you have Tea/Republicans against not only the President and the Democrats, BUT AGAINST EACH OTHER, and that includes both the House and the Senate.

    Our politics are definitely hurting. And people need to understand a band aid isn't going to fix this stupidity. We need to decapitate. Just like a cancer, it has to be removed.

    Bring on the elections in November 2012. It's time to dismantle this Tea/Republican Party abomination. It's clearly not working.

    We need to vote in President Obama for another four years, and give him majorities in the House and the Senate of Democrats.

    That probably don't fix a everything, but it sure would be a step in the right direction preventing the political impasse going on right now.

  4. GOP philosophy:

    1. Make tax cuts for the rich and super rich permanent.
    2. For the middle class and less privileged - "What is the magic of 60 days?", meaning don't wait, tax them now.

    It's just that simple. The wealth creators are the middle and lesser privileged classes but no relief for them with tax cuts to be sustained for the wealthy.

    Notice too that the GOP are rabidly religious. They are reverent to god but that's where it stops. They will need unemployed children to fill the ranks of their armies to protect America, at the expense of the retired and the aged and ask for Forgiveness (from god only) when the death toll becomes public. "No apologies" from Mitt.

    In the history of the world, the wealthy have never needed a true Democracy, it costs them the money that they could otherwise keep to build the castles they had in the dark and middle ages.

  5. Even a conservative editorial board on the Wall Street Journal ripped into Boehner and O'Connell today.

    Read it and weep, righties. Your elected leaders are on the wrong side of this, even confirmed by conservative pundits.

    But take heart, righties, the brainless folks on Fox & Friends in the morning will spin this another way for you. Please don't think, just listen to them.

    Bring on the 2012 elections. I want to utterly destroy the Tea/Republican Party with my vote. As everyone should....

  6. You can bet the the house that if this was a tax break for the wealthy the house Republicans would have voted 100% in favor of continuing those tax cuts.



    Since the Republican party only represents a minority of america(the the wealthy) let's put them back in the minority next fall.

  7. The righties can spin it any which way they want it, but on MSN News today, they outlined three reasons why the House GOP will fail in their efforts on this (also it outlines a conservative pundit column on the Wall Street Journal which further pounds it home):

    "Three reasons why the House GOP won't win this fight: Ten days before the payroll tax-cut is set to expire, Washington is now locked in a political stalemate. House Republicans are demanding that the Senate come back from its holiday break to participate in a conference committee, while Democrats are arguing that the House GOP simply pass the already-approved Senate legislation to extend the tax cut for another two months before hammering out a longer-term agreement. But there are three reasons why the House GOP probably won't win this fight, PR-wise, especially if the tax cut expires. Reason #1: House Republicans allowed the Senate to break for the Christmas holiday without explicit orders it would need to come back. In fact, Politico notes that the silence from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is deafening. Reason #2: The Senate passed its legislation by a bipartisan 89-10 vote, raising the question whether a conference committee could produce a deal that could get 60-plus Senate votes. Reason #3: The House GOP didn't allow an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill, suggesting that it could have passed if they did. Those three reasons will be hard for the House GOP to explain away if the tax cut expires after Dec. 31.

    WSJ editorial page: Time to raise the white flag: And here's a fourth reason: The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page is already asking the House GOP to raise the white flag. 'The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play. Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter.' The editorial page goes on to say, 'At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly. Then go home and return in January with a united House-Senate strategy that forces Democrats to make specific policy choices that highlight the differences between the parties on spending, taxes and regulation.'"

    But take heart, righties, the Fox News people will spin this around, put it on its head and make down seem like up, up seem like down, and aardvarks can fly.

  8. To reduce it down to basics for the unhearing righties, the simple fact of the matter is that, because Speaker Boehner cannot herd his Tea/Republican Party cats into any sort of semblance of order where they can get anything done, in just a few days, if nothing gets done, OVER HALF of all Americans will see their taxes being raised.

    This will be approximately 160 million people, and these people are not the filthy rich, these are the working class, will each have their taxes raised anywhere from $1,000.00 to $1,500.00.

    This has nothing to do with Social Security, budgets, the cost of tea in China nor the overturning of Newton's Law of Gravity. It has more to do with Tea/Republican Party types who are more interested in fighting President Obama and his administration more so than doing their job these same working class type people voted them into power to do.

    Because of the majority of House Republicans, the majority of Americans will be shafted.

    And it's all because Speaker Boehner wants to go against the intentions of his fellow Republicans in the Senate. Mainly because he won't stand up to his stupid Tea Party faction. It amazes me to think that he stands up for his members to make Nazi references to things (Rep. West's (R-FL) stupid comments recently) are more important than taking care of people.

    I know I cannot wait to behead the Tea/Republican Party at the voting booth in November 2012.

    I'm personally sick and tired of the games being played continually by them. All at the expense of the average working American, the people who have the least ability to have any say in our fractured Government right now.

    I am pretty sure people in America are also tired of being held hostage to party politics all the time. Well, maybe not all the time, but it is confirmed on record the House Republicans did this now a total of four times in the past year.

    Enough is enough. We really need to slap them all out of power in November 2012. I know that's my intention. Just like every American, I really, really don't like it when someone points a gun at my head all the time and keeps telling me it's their way or the highway.

  9. Comment removed by moderator. Inappropriate

  10. To reduce it down:
    Obama is a lousy leader
    2 months - what a political creep
    and those who follow him are imps and pigs
    and dirty little liars.

  11. lovestohike: "To reduce it down:
    Obama is a lousy leader
    2 months - what a political creep"

    Your comment makes absolutely no sense at all.

    This payroll tax cut was approved in the Senate by an overwhelming majority of 89 votes, including both Republican and Democrat.

    The bill goes to the House of Representatives for approval. Where it is actually bogged down now because of Tea Party/Republican Party brinksmanship debacle endgame crap they love to play all the time.

    President Obama is not involved with this process...yet. He only will get involved with it if it gets approved and he signs it. He didn't even have a say on the two months or a year.

    It's up to the House right now. And they are clearly punting it all over the place...except getting it to go forward for an up or down vote. You ask me, they are only putting the sword down on the ground hilt first, then slowly forward on it and committing political suicide.

    Anyways, that's how our Government works. President Obama cannot just go ahead and say do it. It must follow the process...a process that has made this country great for all these years.

    But the Fox News crowd MUST have their say, I guess, making up stuff as they go along. Their tactic is to keep repeating it, even if it's not true, keep repeating it, then after an acceptable amount of time goes by, they look at each other and ask why isn't the other news organizations picking up on this, in essence trying to shame or cajole them into reporting a non-story. And, of course, if that don't work, just attack, attack, attack, tora, tora, tora, and name call, name call, name call, shout it from the rooftops. They don't report news, they try to MAKE nutball rightie news, even if they have to make it up. And apologies if they get something wrong? Eh. Not important. That's only for those other mainstream blamestream lamestream media to do, Fox News is exempt from that requirement. (NOTE: Heavy sarcasm there. Just pointing it out.)

    But the American people are waking up to this blatant propaganda and shoddy agenda driven reporting. It gets really old when it's nothing but a constant, sustained attack on our President...and all he's guilty of doing is trying to do the very best he can to run this country...even facing all the unnecessary opposition at his every move and step.