LAMBRO: Reid’s legislative trap

Senate leader intends to blame GOP for payroll-tax hike

Once again, Congress is playing high-stakes poker with a precarious economy and the lives of struggling Americans who live paycheck to paycheck - that is, if they’re lucky enough to have a job.

The one-year Social Security payroll-tax holiday expires at the end of this month when the temporary 4.2 percent tax rate returns to 6.2 percent, which will mean $1,000 less in take-home pay for the average family next year.

Unable to reach a compromise on extending the tax cut for another year, the Senate kicked the can down the road, passed a 60-day extension, sent it to the House, locked its doors and sent its members home for the Christmas holiday.

In a mean-minded, take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum to the “people’s House,” Senate Majority leader Harry Reid made it clear he didn’t care what the House did with the bill - the Senate was finished for the year.

That’s not the way Congress usually has operated over its 222 years, especially on must-pass legislation that may affect the lives of 160 million working Americans.

In such cases, the Senate remains in session until the House has acted on the bill, presumably rewriting its terms and provisions. Then each chamber appoints members to a conference committee to iron out their differences and craft a compromise that can pass both houses.

Mr. Reid wasn’t the least bit interested in working out a compromise on the broader issues the bill poses, such as how to pay for its $120 billion cost, which will further deplete the Social Security’s trust fund, or the uncertainty raised by the short-term extension.

He wants a political issue, and he made that clear when he thumbed his nose at the House this week, telling its members either to pass the two-month extension or be seen as raising taxes on millions of Americans at Christmastime.

“I will not reopen negotiations until the House follows through and passes this agreement,” Mr. Reid flatly declared.

In other words, if the House doesn’t approve the Senate measure, it can forget about any compromise on a bill to fully extend the tax holiday throughout the 2012 election year.

And Democrats say Republicans are obstructionists.

Mr. Reid argues correctly that the two-month extension bill was a compromise with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, but Mr. McConnell is on record backing House Speaker John A. Boehner’s call for a formal House-Senate conference where the two sides could resolve their differences behind closed doors.

Mr. McConnell doesn’t want to have to return next year and debate the payroll-tax extension all over again, and neither do Mr. Boehner and his House Republicans.

But Senate Democrats, desperately looking for an issue to save a dozen vulnerable seats, relish the idea.

“What is playing out in Washington, D.C. this week is about political leverage, not about what’s good for the American people. Congress can work out a solution without stopping the payroll-tax cut extension,” said Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is the chief political correspondent for The Washington Times, the author of five books and a nationally syndicated columnist. His twice-weekly United Feature Syndicate column appears in newspapers across the country, including The Washington Times. He received the Warren Brookes Award For Excellence In Journalism in 1995 and in that same year was the host and co-writer of ...

Latest Stories

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts