House Passes Payroll Tax Cut Extension, Clock Ticking for Democrats to Act

Eight days ago President Obama urged Congress to extend a payroll tax cut for middle class families and unemployment benefits before the end of the year.

“A year ago at this time, both parties came together to cut payroll taxes for the typical American family by about $1,000,” Obama said. “But as soon as this year ends, so does that tax cut. If Congress fails to renew this tax cut before then, that same family will see a tax hike of about $1,000 a year.”

Of course he also attempted to preemptively blame Republicans for failing to extend the tax breaks, asking how we can “barely lift a finger to prevent taxes going up for 160 million Americans who really need help?”

Well last night House Republicans passed one-upped the President, not only extending the payroll tax and unemployment insurance, but also ensuring that it doesn’t increase the deficit through common sense cuts (90 percent of which the President has tacitly agreed to previously).

And in true late-night infomercial fashion…that’s not all! Pass this bill and you’ll receive several jobs bill for the low, low cost of zero dollars! And we’ll even throw in $6 billion in deficit reduction as a free gift just for trying the bill.

But seriously, passing this bill should be pure common sense.

It ensures taxes stay low, so that family budgets aren’t further crunched during the recession. It ensures that the unemployed are not hung out to dry, but also institutes reforms to gradually reduce the maximum week of benefits from 99 to 59 weeks as the economy recovers. Following reports that more than 10 percent of jobless benefits were used on improper payments, the bill also introduces some mechanisms to cut down on waste, fraud and abuse.

Hearing the calls for shared sacrifice, the bill introduces a “means test” to prevent millionaires from receiving unemployment and food stamp benefits. It also institutes reforms to gradually increase Medicare premiums for high income beneficiaries.

It also accelerates a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which will provide a steady source of jobs and energy to the United States. Interestingly, this provision, which 47 Democrats voted for earlier this year, in large part because it is projected to create thousands of jobs, has been singled out for Obama’s wrath. In fact, he’s gone so far as to threaten to veto any payroll tax bill that contains the Keystone XL.

I guess that means Obama wasn’t quite being truthful when he said, “Now is the time to keep growing the economy, to keep creating jobs, to keep giving working Americans the boost they need.”

Sadly, President Obama isn’t the only stumbling block to ensuring payroll taxes remain low for millions of workers. Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid, have already warned that the plan is dead in the Senate, and insisted that Republicans were just wasting time “because it will not pass.”

Could there be a clearer statement of Democrats’ partisan politicking. President Obama demanded an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance. House Republicans accomplished that and paid for it without raising taxes elsewhere. That’s responsible governing.

Nevertheless, Democrats not appear ready to vote “no,” which means, as Obama pointed out, means that “families will see a tax hike of about $1,000 a year. . . And that’s why Congress must act.”

Or, as we can now clarify…that’s why the Democrat-held Senate must act. Will they? The clock is ticking…