Payroll Tax Cut

December 14, 2011 by staff 

Payroll Tax Cut, Political skullduggery spilled onto the Senate floor Wednesday, with Democratic and Republican leaders openly squabbling over the order of votes on a GOP payroll tax cut plan and a spending measure needed to keep the government funded past Friday.

The inability to agree on how to proceed, let alone actually schedule votes, stymied progress on measures that both parties have said they support in concept — holding down taxes for working Americans and determining government spending for the rest of the fiscal year.

In a rare display of overt hostility, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, accused Republican counterpart Sen. Mitch McConnell of “living in a world of non-reality” and said the GOP payroll tax cut plan passed Tuesday by the House was “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

McConnell shot back that Democrats wasted weeks of time with political “show votes” intended to bolster President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

The Senate should now vote first on a broad spending agreement reached by congressional negotiators to ensure that government funding continues after a previous short-term extension expires at midnight Friday, he said.

“Quit wasting our time here in the Senate scoring points with the shutdown two days away,” McConnell said, later adding: “The last time I looked, Christmas is a week from Sunday. Time is a’wastin’.”

Reid and other Senate Democrats responded that McConnell and Republicans want to avoid certain defeat on their payroll tax plan by voting first on the House payroll tax cut measure, which includes controversial provisions to speed approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and weaken environmental regulations.

The issue comes down to mistrust between the parties. Democrats fear that approving the spending deal first will allow Republicans to leave Washington for the upcoming holiday recess without compromising on the payroll tax-cut extension worth $1,000 to the average working family.

Reid called instead for Congress to pass another short-term spending extension to keep the government funded until December 21, giving legislators more time to reach a deal on the payroll tax measure and the long-term spending proposal.

McConnell said that isn’t necessary, because negotiators on a House-Senate conference committee already reached agreement on the legislation. The problem, he said, is that Obama and Reid told Democratic negotiators not to sign the deal in order to hold up a final vote in a dispute over the separate payroll tax measure.

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