Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) issued the following statement after House Republicans once again stepped back from the brink and agreed to the two-month extension to the payroll tax holiday, as agreed to by the Senate last week.  

Last year, Congress enacted legislation to reduce the Social Security payroll tax by 2% for employees, continue extended unemployment insurance benefits and delay a previously scheduled 25% reduction in the Medicare reimbursement rate for physician services (Doc Fix).   Both parties agree that a one-year extension is preferable, but great differences remain on how to do so.  The two-month Senate compromise gives time to work out the long-term deal, while not harming American families. 

“It is refreshing to see that my Republican colleagues have seen the light and are joining Democrats in preventing a tax hike on middle class families.  The fact that we continue having these dysfunctional arguments every few weeks, needlessly taking our country to the brink of economic disasters, is a major reason Congress has an approval rating bordering on single digits.  The American people are sick and tired of these games.  For once, cooler heads have prevailed and now there won’t be any unwanted holiday surprises for the American people.  After the New Year, Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can hash out a real agreement for a longer extension.  The plan passed by the House Majority is unacceptable, however, and must be altered in order to be signed by the President.  Their bill forces millions of seniors to pay more for health care while giving the 300,000 wealthiest Americans another free pass.  This is completely unacceptable – we cannot solve our debt problem on the backs of our working families.”   

The GOP version of the expiring tax measures alters some key points.  It modifies the unemployment insurance program to cut 40 possible weeks (reducing the maximum state and federal duration of benefits from 99 weeks to 59 weeks) while also imposing new requirements on laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits. It adds taxes to the unemployed for long-term need, and disqualifies them from taking part in the Food Stamp program. 

“It really doesn’t make any sense to punish people who are already suffering by being without a job.  I hope that we can build upon the common ground found today, and find a more equitable way of paying for a longer extension.  I also call on my Republican colleagues to fully abandon the reckless tactics when we reconvene in 2012.  There are too many important issues we need to tackle – job creation, immigration reform, education, etc. – and we cannot do so by having to face manufactured crises time after time. I am glad to see the spirit of the holidays prevailed today, and I look forward to extending that, as well as the middle class tax breaks, into the new year.”