WASHINGTON — Congress delivered a last-minute tax cut extension to 160 million American workers Friday along with unemployment benefits for those laid off during the ongoing recession. President Obama quickly signed the legislation into law.
The Nikkei members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, emphasized the importance of compromise during the contentious debate and faulted some of their Republican colleagues for holding up the vote.
• Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose (on Dec. 21): I support the Senate bipartisan compromise bill extending the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance, and the so-called “doc fix” for the next two months. While this short-term extension is not ideal, it is the best course of action for the American people.
It received overwhelming bipartisan support in the United States Senate, the blessing of Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and 39 Republican votes when it cleared the Senate.
As many of my colleagues know, it is an extraordinary achievement for any legislation to receive this many Republican votes in the United States Senate, and I applaud their bipartisan collaboration to find a workable solution.
Now, once again, House Republicans have been hijacked by the extreme demands of the Tea Party Caucus. At every opportunity, the far right holds our nation hostage, and now their grandstanding is putting middle-class Americans and our seniors at risk.
Instead of indulging Tea Party extremism, our chamber should hold up its end of the deal and move to pass the Senate-passed compromise bill without delay.
The compromise legislation will prevent an immediate tax increase on 160 million Americans, and will ensure 2.2 million — and more than 362,000 Californians — don’t lose their unemployment insurance. Further, the bipartisan agreement protects the health care of 48 million seniors by preventing a 27.4% Medicare physician payment cut.
However, I must say, I am given great pause by other items included in this legislation. In particular, I am opposed to the inclusion of the language forcing the administration to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline. While I am as concerned as anyone about our energy security now and in the future, I believe that Keystone XL is the wrong way to achieve security. Instead, we should be focused on promoting renewable energy that does not damage our planet or harm public health.
So while I need to do the right thing for my constituents by voting to extend the provisions that protect our nation’s middle class and our seniors, I am being forced to do the wrong thing by the House Republican majority on the Keystone XL pipeline.
This is what good governance requires: compromise.
This motion to go to conference is just the latest act of a party overtaken by extremists, set on creating dysfunction and disorder. The American people have given Congress its lowest approval rating in history because of Republican actions like these. I ask my colleagues to put their country before their party, pass the Senate bipartisan compromise, and defeat this motion to go to conference.
Rep. Doris Matsui of Sacramento (on Dec. 22): I am pleased that House Republicans have decided to finally put aside partisan games and pass the two-month extension, so that we can work on a year-long compromise. Their brinkmanship nearly caused a 30 percent cut to Medicare doctors’ payments that would have endangered care for millions of seniors, an end to unemployment benefits for two million Americans, and a tax increase on 160 million Americans.
Of all times, the holiday season is one in which we should be able to put aside our differences and work for the betterment of the country. Americans expect nothing less, and expect that we provide them with the certainty they need during this time.
By passing this package, we will be able to assure America’s seniors that they will have continued access to needed care, our unemployed that they will continue to receive benefits while actively seeking a new job, and our middle class that they will not see a sudden tax hike in the new year.
Going forward, I hope to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to pass a long-term deal that protects American workers and seniors, and ensures our economy is able to continue on its path towards recovery.
Rep. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii (on Dec. 22): This comes as a great relief as we finally put American families first. With just three days left before Christmas, 700,000 Hawaii workers can enjoy the remainder of the holiday season without having to worry about whether their taxes would go up starting New Year’s Day.
This also means 3,000 people in the islands won’t see their unemployment benefits disappear in January. But this is far from over. We will still need to work quickly next month to pass a fair and sensible bill, without “poison pill” provisions, that extends the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits through the end of the 2012.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii (on Dec. 22): I am pleased that House Republicans have finally realized that extending the payroll tax holiday, implementing the doc fix for Medicare recipients, and providing unemployment compensation are priorities for working people and the middle class, who should be the focus of our attention.
We have two months to work on a year-long fix, and I am confident we can accomplish that. I hope we can do it without repeating this shibai.