I just read an article in TPM about the political effect of the recent yes/no/yes vote on the payroll tax cut. If you are unaware of this discussion, I want to go wherever you have been, because it is indeed a disconnected place. The payroll tax debate has been the “Grinch” of Christmas 2011.
This article, and many preceding it, blame the recent payroll tax fiasco and much of congressional gridlock, on the Tea Party. Although I do think that the Tea Party, basing their position on the fact that they were actually elected, has effectively hijacked the entire Republican party in their ideological direction, I think this is particular bucket of blame is undeserved. John Boehner, for example, is not considered part of that group, but is the Speaker of the House, the ‘main man’ for all House Republicans, and he supported the entire Republican unification againstthe payroll tax cut extension. ALL Republicans, regardless of Tea Party preference or not, voted against the extension.
The silly things that Boehner has said in justification of that “no” vote exemplifies politics today: PARTY above ALL else. It wasn’t the Tea Party caucus only that voted against the extension and effectively FOR a tax hike for working Americans, it was ALL Republicans.
Let’s track the discussion to make sure we know the who, what and when of it all.
We start with the President.
Dec. 8: Obama says, no payroll tax cut, no Christmas break. source
Moving to the House:
Dec. 13: Passes a bill extended the cuts for a year, but see what else their Bill contained: source
- —Extended expiring long-term unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless through 2012, but shortened the maximum length of coverage from 99 to 79 weeks. Required anyone receiving benefits who does not hold a high school diploma to seek a GED; let states test applicants for illegal drug use (I thought the GOP was against big government and govt. intervention?).
- —Prevented the 2012 scheduled 27% cut in Medicare payments to doctors (purpose of the cut was to eliminate unnecessary and wasteful costs).
- Blocks Obama administration rule curbing pollution from industrial boilers; extends tax break for businesses buying equipment for 2012 (Do we hear special interest calling?).
- —Requires the President to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline within 60 days unless he declares the project would not serve the national interest (Again, special interest whispering sweet nothing).
- —Price tag, over $180 billion.
Now to the Senate; the pre-House bill proposal in the Senate had initially been to pay for the tax cut extension with a 1% increase in taxes paid by those making over $1 million. That proposal was ejected based on House Republicans saying absolutely not. Here are the main points of the Senate:
- —Extends payroll tax cut through Feb. 29.
- —Renews current unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed through Feb. 29, no other changes in program (I actually like the idea of maybe not a GED/degree requirement but rather a vocational training requirement for the extension of benefits.).
- —Also prevents 27% cut in Medicare payments to doctors; extends other health care fees through Feb. 29 (What about that ‘let’s eliminate hidden, wasteful costs thing again?).
- —Same provision on Keystone as House (Democrats listen to special interest as much as Republicans).
- —All this would be paid for by increasing home loan guarantee fees charged to mortgage lenders by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration by one-tenth of 1 percentage point. The fee is passed on to home buyers and will apply to many new purchases and refinancings starting Jan. 1 (Wouldn’t this work against the home buyers market? It also means that home buyers are subsidizing unemployment, doctors and all who benefit from the Social Security payroll tax cut? This basically means that middle class Americans are still covering the bulk of everything.).
- —Price tag $33 billion.
The next step was to send the Senate bill that passed to the House and they vote on that one.
Dec. 20: House votes “no” on the Senate bill (229-193).
What ensued next was a general disbelief by the President, Senate and American public that the House would effectively raise payroll tax cuts to the previous level and decrease take-home pay of working people. Boehner went public, accusing Obama and Senate Democrats of causing the gridlock and playing partisan politics. It takes a lot of nerve to do that when it was the House Republicans that attached the “poison pill” (aka Keystone pipeline) to their bill. They knew that would never pass the Senate and had Obama’s promise of a veto.
Enter public outcry, Senate Republicans, press editorials across the country and POLLS showing Obama was getting a political bump from the juvenile behavior of House Republicans. See again the TPM article.
And today we have concession.
Again I say, don’t blame the Tea Party, this frat party disaster was a combined effort of ALL House Republicans.