Editorial Roundup: On the Republican Tax Increase

With Republicans refusing to act, 160 million working Americans will see their taxes go up – $1,000 a year for the average family.  Additionally, 2.5 million Americans will no longer receive their unemployment insurance benefits.

President Barack Obama and Democrats believe the only viable option to ensure millions of middle class families aren’t hit with a tax hike is if the House of Representatives takes up the bipartisan compromise that passed in the Senate with nearly 90 percent support, including 39 votes from Senate Republicans.  Unfortunately over the last few days we’ve seen nothing but political theater from House Republicans.  They refuse to even vote on this bipartisan compromise.  That’s unacceptable.

Now is not the time for political brinksmanship.  Nobody wants to see their taxes go up in just ten days.  Not right now.  Not when families are trying to pay the bills or make ends meet.  Unfortunately, if House Republicans fail to act, while there’s still time, this tax cut will expire and millions of families will have $1,000 less next year.

Judging from the local newspaper editorials below, it looks like we’re not the only ones who believe the House Republicans should get to work and get this done before the end of the year.  Let’s take a look:

New York Times   Putting Paychecks at Risk

“If the House had actually voted on Tuesday on the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut in the Senate’s bill, there is a chance that it would have passed… But the House refused to vote on the compromise. Instead, it voted on a piece of parliamentary trickery devised by Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants to ensure the tax cut couldn’t possibly pass… As a result, it looks increasingly likely that the payroll tax cut will end on Jan. 1, along with extended unemployment insurance for three million jobless workers. In a year full of dangerous standoffs, led by extremist House members, this one may be the most intractable.”

Youngstown Vindicator (OH)  Compromise needed to extend tax cuts, unemployment pay

“Boehner can reject the two-month compromise, but blaming it on Democrats is going to be a hard sell when everyone starts paying higher Social Security withholding taxes in January. And, because of another section of the bill, hundreds of thousands of people in most states will see their unemployment benefits end.And while questions remain about how much of their tax breaks the wealthy have been pouring into job creation, there is no question that middle class taxpayers and unemployed workers pour their windfalls right back into the economy. The money they spend on food, shelter, transportation and clothing goes into the pockets of small businesses and other working men and women throughout the economy.  Boehner might want to think about that if he intends to head home to Dayton for Christmas without accepting the Senate compromise.”

Los Angeles Times  Boehner’s brinksmanship

“It’s only fitting that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) would close the year with one more act of brinksmanship. Boehner announced Sunday that he opposed the bipartisan deal in the Senate on a stopgap extension of soon-to-expire payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits and Medicare payment rates for physicians — a deal that he reportedly urged his caucus to accept, only to have other members of his leadership team oppose it. The Senate proposal was far from perfect, but it gave the House GOP a clear win on what supposedly was its top priority: the Keystone XL pipeline project. By not accepting the deal, House Republicans show again that they’re unable or unwilling to stop moving the goal posts.”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel House Republicans earn an extra large lump of coal

“Boehner said House Republicans oppose the Senate bill “because the two-month extension will create more uncertainty for job creators in our country when millions of Americans are out of work.” He also argued that “payroll processing companies say that the Senate bill is unworkable.”  Uncertainty? What could create more uncertainty than throwing out the entire deal just days before Christmas and a little more than a week before a tax hike will go into effect unless something is done? And what could create more uncertainty than doing so after the Senate has adjourned?”

Denver Post   11 percent approval rating: How low can Congress go?

“We too support a 12-month extension of the payroll tax cut, but only after first ensuring the present tax relief does not expire. The House must pass the bill, if only to show the remaining 11 percent their faith is not completely undeserved.”

Las Vegas SunAmericans face higher taxes because of Republican obstruction

“As if Americans haven’t seen enough dysfunction in Washington, House Republicans engineered a masterpiece Tuesday to round out the year. They rejected a bipartisan Senate plan that would have extended payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits for two months, giving lawmakers time to work out a longer-term deal.”

 Wall Street Journal The GOP’s Payroll Tax Fiasco

“If Republicans didn’t want to extend the payroll tax cut on the merits, then they should have put together a strategy and the arguments for defeating it and explained why… But now Republicans are drowning out that victory in the sounds of their circular firing squad. Already four GOP Senators have rejected the House position, and the political rout will only get worse… At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly.”

Charleston Gazette (WV)   Tax hike: GOP hypocrisy

Most Republicans in Congress signed Grover Norquist’s pledge vowing never to vote for a tax increase — yet, bizarrely, House Republicans took a step Tuesday that may inflict a $1,000 tax increase on 160 million Americans.  The action showed that GOP leaders care only about tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, not for middle-class U.S. families.

Harrisburg Patriot-News (PA)  Payroll tax: Congress opts for partisanship instead of what’s best for Americans

“Like one more sequel to a movie everyone hated in the first place, comes ‘Brinkmanship IV: Mr. Smith Plagues Washington.’  If Congress does not extend the payroll tax cut, some 160 million Americans will see their taxes go up in 2012 by an average of about $1,000 per year. Unemployment benefits will run out for millions more.”

Tulsa World (OK)   Taxpayers get a lump of coal from House

“It is clear that the majority in the U.S. House is much more concerned about the 2012 election than it is for the welfare of the country’s middle class.”

Albany Times Union (NY):  What’s wrong with the GOP?

“Let them run for re-election as the people who raised taxes . . . The GOP has been at war — no surprise — with the Democrats, with whom they managed to secure a truce on their own terms. No longer, for instance, are the Democrats in the Senate calling — reasonably, we thought — for paying the roughly $180 billion price of all this by putting a surtax on millionaires.  Now the GOP is at war with itself.”

Tacoma News Tribune (WA)Don’t let 2011 end without saving the sales-tax deduction

“Something is getting lost in the partisan bickering in Congress over extension of the payroll-tax break and unemployment benefits.  That would be the sales-tax deduction – which would be seen as a mini financial stimulus for the seven states including Washington, that don’t have a state income tax.”

Bozeman Daily Chronicle (MT)  Montana’s delegates must rise above the shenanigans

“Notice what’s going on in Congress these days?  Democrats and Republicans have ceased talking to each other in any meaningful way. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives dismisses outright anything that has Democrats’ fingerprints on it – even if it would save the nation from annihilation. The absurd filibuster rule has made the Democrat-controlled Senate dysfunctional and irrelevant.”

Eugene Register-Guard (OR)   A tax-cut stalemate

“With 14 million people out of work, wages falling and poverty surging, this isn’t the sort of leadership Americans need from Congress. House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders should back off their ill-advised brinksmanship and insist that their unruly caucus support the Senate’s bipartisan deal for a stopgap extension of payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits.”

Mitt Romney’s Failure to Lead

In interviews this morning, Mitt Romney—who is rumored to be running for president—refused to weigh in on the House GOP’s payroll tax cut debacle, where they voted to raise taxes on 160 million American people five days before Christmas. At an appearance in New Hampshire this morning, Romney went so far as to say he didn’t want to get involved in “congressional sausage making.” This from a man who wants to be president.

Plenty of other leaders in the Republican Party have weighed in and been harshly critical of the House GOP—including Romney’s own home state senator, Scott Brown. But Romney, who has referred to the payroll tax cut for middle-class Americans as nothing more than a “temporary little Band-Aid,” dodged repeated questions about where he stands on the House Republicans raising taxes on 160 million Americans, where he stands on how John Boehner has handled the fiasco, and what he would do differently if he were president.

When Mitt Romney talks about a failure to lead, he knows what he is talking about: He’s the embodiment of the phrase.

What Has Congress Been Doing Instead?

Rather than acting to extend President Obama’s middle-class tax cut, House Republicans spent part of this week discussing whether or not to install a bust of Winston Churchill somewhere in the U.S. Capitol building.

Which makes one wonder: what else has Congress been spending time doing instead of acting to help middle-class families?

Here’s a sample of what passes for “work” in Congress:

  • Authorizing eligible vessels to compete in the America’s Cup yacht race [S.1759 — America’s Cup Act of 2011]
  • Congratulating the Green Bay Packers on winning Super Bowl XLV [S. Res. 48: A resolution congratulating the Green Bay Packers on winning Super Bowl XLV]

(Video above) This morning, moments after the House was gaveled into session, Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer tried to enter a motion to bring the Senate payroll tax cut extension up for a vote… but the Republicans chose to walk off the floor and leave the chamber, rather than hear the motion.

President Obama on House Vote to Raise Taxes: “This is not a game”

After House Republicans voted down consideration of the Senate’s extension of the payroll tax bill, President Barack Obama urged the House not only to bring it up for a vote—but also to pass the bill. 160 million Americans are waiting for it.

“The clock is ticking; time is running out. And if the House Republicans refuse to vote for the Senate bill, or even allow it to come up for a vote, taxes will go up in 11 days. I saw today that one of the House Republicans referred to what they’re doing as, “high-stakes poker.” He’s right about the stakes, but this is not poker, this is not a game—this shouldn’t be politics as usual. Right now, the recovery is fragile, but it is moving in the right direction. Our failure to do this could have effects not just on families but on the economy as a whole. It’s not a game for the average family, who doesn’t have an extra 1,000 bucks to lose. It’s not a game for somebody who’s out there looking for work right now, and might lose his house if unemployment insurance doesn’t come through. It’s not a game for the millions of Americans who will take a hit when the entire economy grows more slowly because these proposals aren’t extended” President Obama said.