GOP Willing to Raise Middle Class Taxes While Protecting Millionaires

Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) criticized the cynical decision from the House Republican Majority to put at risk a vital tax break for low- and middle-income families, and unemployment insurance extension for out-of-work Americans.  Their decision to scuttle the overwhelming bipartisan agreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans to forge a short compromise is both “risky” and “irresponsible.”

To view his comments from the House floor -

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.  In fact, 56 House Republicans supported a similar two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday in January 2009.

“It is the height of irresponsibility to play a risky game with the Senate to see who blinks first, to simply score political points back home.  The Tea-Party-led Republican Majority knows that the American people want this to pass, and they are sick and tired of these games.  They are growing more disgusted with Congress and the approval, or the lack, proves it.  The gridlock we have faced time and again this year is directly related to the Tea-Party faction in the House RepublicanMajority’s utter refusal to compromise.  It is like negotiating with pre-school children,” said Rep. Engel. “They claim they understand the importance of these middle class tax breaks, and the desperate need by our millions of unemployed to maintain benefits while they search for work.  But the proof is in the pudding, they could extend those benefits right now and do so without crippling cuts to Medicare or unnecessary restrictions tied to the unemployment benefits.  They can extend them right now and still have a chance to hammer out a larger agreement after the New Year, with great benefit to all Americans.”

He added, “This 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 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 punishing people for having to receive unemployment benefits.  It is not as if these benefits do anything more than enable people to feed and clothe their family.  In 2010, over three million Americans emerged from poverty thanks to having unemployment benefits.  Almost 240,000 New Yorkers will lose their unemployment benefits under this bill.  Haven’t the unemployed been through enough already?” asked Rep. Engel.  He added that by slashing the amount of people receiving unemployment insurance, it will remove $50 billion from the economy, hinder recovery and add to the jobless numbers. 

“Republicans have had many chances to show the American people that our government can function in a bipartisan manner.  They refuse to do so.   I call on my Republican colleagues to remember why we were elected, and to work with Democrats to pass what should be common sense legislation together,” said Rep. Engel.