Minnesota House members bemoan payroll tax standoff

WASHINGTON – As the U.S. House debated a measure to reject a Senate bill to extend the payroll tax cut for two months, members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation bemoaned the partisan stalemate while sticking closely to their parties’ rapidly-shifting talking points.

House Republicans said they opposed the Senate bill because it covers only two months, not the entire year.

“This is part of Congress’s problem, I think why there’s low approval ratings,” GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen. “There’s always short-term fixes, short-term patches versus long-term solutions and so I think it’s just really important to get it right.”

Democrats counter that they would have been happy to have a year-long extension but the issue that stymied talks in the Senate was how to pay for the estimated $200 billion cost of the bill, which includes the tax extension, the Medicare “doc fix”, extended unemployment benefits and several smaller tax breaks. The two month extension punted on most of the so-called pay-fors, which made it possible for the measure to draw aye votes from 39 of the Senate’s 47 Republicans and almost all Democrats.

Noting the Senate’s inability to pass legislation this Congress, DFL Rep. Tim Walz said the Senate’s bipartisan vote for the payroll tax extension is a sign of how non-controversial this measure should be.

“Ninety percent of the United States Senate, they couldn’t agree that today’s the 20th [of December] and they did it!” said Walz.

In past years, Walz said bills such as these “would have just been agreed up to go two months because that’s the compromise to make government work.”

Last week, Walz was one of just 10 Democrats to cross party lines and vote for the House Republican tax extension bill even though it contained some policy provisions he found objectionable.

“I just want to get it done,” said Walz. “I already compromised and took a lot of heat, to be very honest with you, from folks on the left side but that’s my job to try and get something done, I was willing to do that.”

The Senate’s decision to go on recess has provided House Republicans with some rhetorical fodder to complain that that the upper chamber left town to avoid to further negotiations with the House.

“We want to force that discussion right now and get the resolution right now,” said Republican Rep. John Kline.

He promised that Republicans would be happy to keep the south wing of the Capitol open the week between Christmas and New Years even if the Senate didn’t plan to return.

“If we leave, we’ll be leaving with a ticket to come back. Our expectation is we’ll be back here,” said Kline.

Republicans have been lukewarm about extending the payroll tax cut since the summer. Paulsen told MPR News then that he was “hesitant” to support renewing the tax cut because “I’m not convinced it’s going to result in meaningful employment for folks.”

Now he argues a year-long extension is needed to provide “certainty” for taxpayers and employers as they make financial decisions in 2012.

Extending the tax cut became a cornerstone of the jobs plan rolled out by President Obama in September. He offered to pay for that plan in part by raising taxes on the wealthy, a non-starter for Republicans. Still, linking the two issues provided Obama and congressional Democrats with a powerful rhetorical weapon that enabled them to say that Republicans were more interested in protecting the rich rather than the middle-class, who are the predominate beneficiaries of the payroll tax cut.

That messaging campaign rattled Republicans. Paulsen conceded that without Obama’s push for the issue, he wouldn’t be backing any payroll tax cut extension.

“This is the President’s marquee issue, I get that,” Paulsen said. “Presidents get a lot of what they want and he wants to have it longer than two months and so I just think we should move forward and have it done for the long term at least.”

Amidst the overheated language and ferocious debates over the past two weeks, DFL Rep. Collin Peterson, the longest-serving member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, has watched quietly.

“It just seems like whatever anybody tries to do, somebody’s got to pick a fight,” said Peterson.

While the 10-term veteran sometimes crosses party lines to vote with Republicans, on this issue he hasn’t broken ranks even though he’s uncomfortable with the fiscal implications of the payroll tax extension, which will require Social Security benefits be paid for from general government revenues.

“If we actually want to get this deficit under control, the best thing we can do is just let all this stuff expire,” Peterson said.

  • CB

    The botton line is that there is a split in the Republican party between the house and senate. Republicans are divided and Democrats are no. Rebublicans will lose.

  • CB

    The botton line is that there is a split in the Republican party between the house and senate. Republicans are divided and Democrats are not. Rebublicans will lose.

  • reubenr

    This is just so lame. These are not talking points, nor thinking points. These are irrational ideas that make no sense to anyone, including themselves. If you wanted a year, you should have put in for a year, but not with all the baggage that you also wanted. So, we can only conclude that you did not want the tax cut extension to the middle class more than you wanted the other stuff. Now you want to take your ball home and start again doing the same thing all over again. Well, no one wants to play with you anymore.

  • akorage

    GOP don’t even respect their own people.

    Raise taxes to pay the bills: Millionnaries-GOP says NO way. The American Working Class.. GOP says OK.

  • carl

    Don’t any of these “SERVERS” realize that this tax increase will absoultly destroy a lot

    of households whos budget has given up

    all that it possibly bear due to inflation and medical cost.

    This will actually cause many to become hungry and homeless. I mean a lot mor than anyone may think.

    Where will it stop?

  • Mark D

    Funny how people get the Hope-a-Dope mantra of media flavers on here! This was really never a TAX CUT to start with. If the Poliiticos cut a Payroll Tax and increase the Social Security Tax where is the cut? This is Cheap Political Theater on BOTH sides of the cesspool. A Tax Cut is something Permanent, Not something for 2 months or a Year,,, Thats what I call a Bone for people that let the Media do all their thinking for them! Read the Bill….>

  • Joseph

    @Mark D,

    True it would have been better if they could have done a 1 year agreement but then why not cut off all the pork and side issues and just do a document for each issue and have them approved by line.

    So just separate all the various components and have them voted on their own merits.

  • Lydia

    It is just like the last time… the House pretends they are going to compromise and then at the last minute Boehner comes in and says no you have to do this this and this. They pretend they did not want the one year extension (during recession) to pass pork and not raises taxes on the super-rich only to say now that they got some concessions that that is not good enough, Are these horse traders ( no offense to horse traders, just citing a history horse trading is how we got used car dealer lemon dealers) or what? Bait and switch at a cost to our country. No wonder people hate Congress!

  • Dani

    Where is history have so many politicians had so much to do with the downfall of the country?

  • Qoheleth

    Remember that Norquist Pledge thing that over 200 House Republicans signed? The one that says “no tax increases, under any circumstances”?

    Notice how, in this position, the Senate’s adjournment gave them the choice, “pass this bill or taxes go up”?

    Notice how they voted down the bill, and violated their Norquist Pledges, the moment that it actually became politically inconvenient?

  • Sharon

    Is it any wonder that the approval rating for the Congress is 9%!! A lump of coal in each of their stockings. I am so tired of hearing about the “Job Creators” who- after 3 years- have done little but cash in. It is once again apparent that the Republicans do not care about the majority of Americans.

  • http://ioldman Chan Vo

    “They” are giving money to people who are holding jobs and having steadily incomes. Furthermore, people who earn more incomes, get more money from the “cut”!!!. Those money could end up in saving accounts or spent at exotic resorts somewhere but the US. Sad!!!. Why do “they” not keep the rate then take 2% from that and give to the “havenots”? For sure, those money will be spent immediately and right here, in the US. Political gimmicks as usual as Dec 2012 comes close. A spit on the faces of people without jobs nor income who are struggling to survive day by day like me

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