Vail-area Rep. Polis, Colorado Dems blast House GOP for payroll tax-cut crisis

House Republicans relent, passing two-month extension

By David O. Williams
Real AspenDecember 23, 2011
A congressional standoff over payroll taxes and unemployment benefits moved toward resolution late Thursday, but not before Colorado Democrats, including Vail-area Rep. Jared Polis, skewered House Republicans for manufacturing the contentious crisis.

Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall Thursday afternoon said he hopes a deal between House Republicans and Senate leaders to end a payroll tax-cut stalemate signals a new willingness for both parties to work together after the holidays.

“I'm grateful that cooler heads have prevailed and that my House colleagues have ended their political brinksmanship over the extension of the payroll tax cut,” said Udall, a Democrat. “This will come as a big relief for Colorado families who were facing a tax hike starting in just a few days.”

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder.

Following the lead of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Republican House leaders caved in to growing pressure and reportedly agreed to a two-month extension of lower payroll tax rates as well as unemployment benefits and Medicare reimbursements.

“Americans have suffered enough from the president's failed economic policies and shouldn't face the uncertainty of a New Year's Day tax hike,” McConnell said a prepared statement Thursday afternoon.

The Senate's two-month extension passed 89-10 on Saturday, with 39 Republicans voting in favor of the bill. House Republicans overwhelming rejected the deal on Tuesday, insisting the Senate return to Washington and forge a one-year extension.

Unrelenting pressure from Democrats and Senate Republicans forced House GOP members to swallow the Senate deal. The only concession House Republicans got was an agreement that the Senate will appoint members to a House-Senate conference committee to swiftly broker a one-year deal early in 2012.

The two-month extension was approved by voice vote today in the House after the Senate signed off earlier today.

“It may not have been politically the smartest thing in the world,'' Boehner said, according to the New York Times. “But let me tell you what: I think our members waged a good fight.'

Udall, who earlier in the day took the opportunity to blast Republican leadership for the crisis -- including presidential hopeful Mitt Romney – said the partisanship needs to be dialed down dramatically in the new year.

“I hope this is a turning point for this Congress and that we will finally be able to put aside partisan differences and work together -- whether we're talking about a year-long extension of the tax cut - -or any number of issues important to the American people,” Udall said in a release.

Earlier in the day, Colorado Democrats hammered House Republicans, joining the Obama administration in going after Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney for calling a payroll tax extension for 160 million Americans a “temporary little Band-Aid.”

An estimated $1,000 tax hike per family was looming at the end of the year if House Republicans continued to dig in their heels and reject a Senate compromise that extended the lower payroll tax rate for two more months and continued unemployment benefits set to expire for another 2.3 million Americans (35,000 in the Denver metro area).

“This whole tragedy is really Mitt Romney ruining Christmas for 160 million Americans,” Polis said early Thursday on a conference call with reporters. “This is typical of the tax-and-spend Republican Party. They're interested in raising taxes on the middle class. They show no interest in lifting a finger to maintain this thousand-dollar tax benefit for middle class families.”

Romney has largely avoided the stalemate, which heated up Tuesday when House Republicans rejected a Senate compromise that was passed by a vote of 89-10 on Saturday – with 39 Senate Republicans voting in favor of the two-month extension. House Speaker John Boehner said the GOP insists on a one-year deal and that Congress should stay in session.

Romney has tried to stay out of what he called the “congressional sausage-making process,” instead trying to deflect blame toward President Barack Obama. But the Obama administration has jumped on Romney's dodging of the issue, and even GOP rivals have joined in. Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich called staying out of the fray a “timidity of calculation.”

Udall agreed.

“There's a lack of leadership here in the House on the part of the majority, and I have to tell you there seems to be a lack of leadership at the national level among the Republican candidates running for president,” Udall told reporters Thursday.

“Mitt Romney has dismissed the payroll tax cut as “a little Band-Aid,” but it's beyond interesting to me that his home-state [Massachusetts] Republican senator, my colleague, my friend Scott Brown, has come out strongly in support of the Senate position and the Senate bill,” he added.

Brown issued this statement right after the House vote on Tuesday:

“It angers me that House Republicans would rather continue playing politics than find solutions. Their actions will hurt American families and be detrimental to our fragile economy. We are Americans first; now is not the time for drawing lines in the sand.”

Colorado U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, again blasted the intransigence of her Republican House colleagues on Thursday.

“One thing we've been hearing the American public say ever since the [budget] debacle of last summer is we need to have our elected officials compromising,” DeGette said. “What the tea party Republicans kind of forced the Republican caucus to do was reject the entire compromise.”

Democrats and many Senate Republicans say the two-month extension is necessary to work out a full one-year extension, and that all the many details cannot be ironed out in the nine days remaining before the end of the year.

After calling for the Senate to work through the break and come up with a better bill, Colorado's four Republican House members were quiet on the issue on Thursday.

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