Pelosi: House GOP Walking Away from Tax Cut for 160 Million Americans

Dec 19, 2011
Press Release

Contact: Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn held a press availability tonight in the Capitol calling on Republicans to pass the bipartisan compromise passed by the Senate that would extend the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans. Below are Leader Pelosi’s opening remarks, closing statement, and a transcript of the question and answer session:

Leader Pelosi’s Opening Remarks:

“Good evening everyone. We came back to Washington. On Saturday when we heard that the Senate had passed the bipartisan bill overwhelmingly—89 votes, 39 Republican Senators voting for a negotiated, bipartisan agreement, negotiated by Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell—we were very hopeful that by now the President could have signed this bill. It was even acknowledged as a victory by Speaker Boehner, who had insisted that the negotiation take place between Majority Leader and Minority Leader in the Senate. But that’s then; this is now.

“What is important: the facts as they relate as they are relative to the lives of the American people. What we see now is stalling action on the part of those who never were really for a payroll tax cut in the first place. Mr. Hoyer will speak to that. But President Obama went around the country with the American Jobs Act, of which this payroll tax cut was very appealing. It was a part of it that was very appealing to the American people and they support it overwhelmingly. They want the tax cut. They want the jobs that it will engender by injecting demand into the economy. And they want us to work together. They’ve been very clear: Can’t you work together to get this done?

“Well, we did. The Senate, Democrats and Republicans, came together. We support what they do, not that that’s everything that we would of written into the bill mind you, but it’s about cooperation. It’s about coming to agreement to meet the needs of the American people.

“So here we are, just a few days before Christmas and the Republicans are coming up with another excuse as to why we can’t do it now. It’s not a reason, why it isn’t necessary. It’s an excuse for why they don’t want to do it.

“And here’s what is at stake. 160 million Americans would have had a payroll tax cut, continue to have a payroll tax cut. Over 2 million people will lose their unemployment benefits if we don’t act upon the Senate resolution. 48 million Americans will lose the opportunity they have for choosing their own doctors under Medicare. This is very important. 160 million Americans, who are working, will get a tax cut. Over 2 million, who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, will now lose their benefit. And again, 48 million seniors will have something to lose in this.

“Economists tell us that passing this will have an impact of 600,000 jobs on the American economy. For us to move forward with the payroll tax cut and the U.I., that the U.I. brings more money back into the economy than almost anything you name: $1.50 for every dollar spent. And of course the health of our seniors is very important to us.

“So we’ve been trying to get the compromise that the Senate arrived at, it was a step forward. It takes us down the path for what we must have. It’s a bill that takes us [on a path] to the end of next year, but it says to the American people that we want to remove all doubt that when you gather around your kitchen table preparing for the holidays and when you sit down to holiday dinner that you know that come January you’ll still be able to pay the bills.

“Reminder: these U.I. people, after January 1, unemployment insurance beneficiaries, they will have no way to live, by and large. So this is very, very, critically important to their personal lives. It’s important to the growth of our economy. Not to do it will halt already the momentum that we have for growing the economy.

“And for the Republicans to say ‘we’re here to work.’ Well, welcome back to the Capitol. We should never be in this position. And we’re in this position because the House, the Senate Republicans, the Senate Democrats, the House Democrats, not loving the proposal, but agreeing to the agreement, want to support a payroll tax [cut]. It’s just the radical Tea Party Republicans who are holding up this tax cut for the American people and jeopardizing our economic growth.”

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Leader Pelosi’s Closing Statement:

“Thank you, Mr. Leader. Thank you, Mr. Whip.

“The reason the Republicans are not taking yes for an answer is because no is their answer. No, to the payroll tax cut. And that is driven, again, by the Tea Party Republicans, who will be responsible for this tax increase—if it happens, which I hope it won’t.

“Earlier this evening, and you were probably there, I saw the Republican Leader say that tomorrow we would have the opportunity to vote on the Senate bill. I’ve just heard from our Ranking Member on the Rules Committee that that is not the case. That they have instructed them, that we will not put in order an opportunity to vote on the Senate bill. I don’t know what happened in between when you spoke to them here and they instructed their people at the Rules Committee. But whatever it was, it was harmful to the American people. My guess, is that they’re afraid that their Members are not going to stick with them on voting against the tax cut because I do not believe that all of the Republicans in that Caucus are against a payroll tax cut.

“The American people are for it, whether they’re Democrats, Republicans or Independents. The Senate is for it, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans. In the House, we support that agreement, even though, again, it wouldn’t be one we wrote, but it does the job to get this tax cut in place so that we can get onto the business of doing the fuller one-year proposal that we all want to do.

“So why is it, why is it that a couple hundred people in the Republican Caucus, and I think it’s probably a smaller number than that can hold up a tax cut for middle-income people, proper access to Medicare for 48 million seniors and unemployment insurance for American workers. It’s because they do not support the payroll tax cut. Mr. Hoyer referenced their early remark. They were against it. President Obama went around the country with the American Jobs Act. It was one of the most popular features of it. It made the issue too hot for the Republicans to handle—too hot that they can’t put it on the floor, afraid that their own Members will abandon them.

“This is really a pivotal moment for working families in our country. Decisions that are made here will affect them very directly, as they always do, but this in a very immediate way. It is a moment that we must, though, make clear what the facts are on this and not continue to be misled by some procedural arguments about this, that and the other thing—that they would stay here to work after being on a week on, a week off and all the rest of that and the ‘Do Nothing Congress.’

“So, in any event, we’re going to make sure that the public understands that when we take the debate to the floor tomorrow, very disappointed that Members will not have the opportunity to vote on a bipartisan agreement in the Senate, overwhelmingly passed, insisted upon by Speaker Boehner, and now, once again, walked away from—as he walked away from the agreement with President Obama on the issue about default, about the $4 trillion big bargain, as Mr. Cantor walked away from the Biden talks. Mr. Hoyer can read a list as long as my arm about the times they have walked way, and right now they’re walking away from the middle-income tax cut for 160 million Americans.

"With that we would be pleased to take questions."

* * *

Question and Answer Session:

Q: I actually have a question for Mr. Hoyer. Just to clear up something you said earlier. You said earlier today that you thought that Speaker Boehner would like to do, knew what was the right thing to do on this when it came to the payroll tax. And earlier here you said that you weren’t so sure that he was for the middle class tax cut. Can you square those two points please?

Whip Hoyer. Sure. Mr. Boehner was for this before he was against it. And he was against it before he was for it. Now, what explains that? The American people. Mr. McConnell, I think, was not too enthusiastic about this one week and then the following week he said: ‘Well, we’re going to put it on the floor.’ Why? Because the American people have been polling in significant support for this proposal to give some stability to middle class families, working families in this country. So that they will have an opportunity to support themselves, their family and help grow this economy, which every economist says this will do. I think basically, while he knows the right thing to do, and that’s why he came out and said this agreement, to give a middle class tax cut, some certainty, at least for the next 60 days, was a victory. And he told his Caucus, claim defeat, his Caucus came back, largely the Members, I’m sure of the Tea Party faction of his caucus and said: ‘Oh no. We don’t like this deal.’ And so he reserved himself. But I think he knows that the American people believe what the Senate did was what they wanted to see and that they’re hopeful that the Senate proposal is approved.

Q: Mrs. Pelosi, tomorrow the GOP says they’re going to vote to appoint conferees. If that does in fact happen, will you appoint conferees from the Democratic side?

Leader Pelosi. No. I don’t think we should go to conference. I think that right now we don’t even have an opportunity to vote on the bill. The American people asked us for three things: jobs, this middle-income tax cut and for us to work together. This proposal that the Senate did, meets those standards worthy of a vote on the floor of the House. We’re not going to that place.

Q: Madam Leader, the payroll tax cut doesn’t expire tomorrow. This is not the eleventh hour. You’re for a one-year extension, everyone’s for it, Mr. Boehner’s for it. What’s wrong with it, aside from the obvious inconvenience? What’s wrong with bringing the Senate back here and negotiating a one-year [extension]?

Leader Pelosi. Listen, let me ask you this: one of the tactics that the Republicans have used repeatedly is to push it all up to the limit. Have you ever covered the United States Senate? Do you know how long it takes to get something done over there? And it isn’t a question of that. It’s a question of an agreement that was made that does the job and we’ve comeback—we can start tomorrow negotiating on the one-year, the additional 10 months that we put on here. There’s nothing that forecloses that option, in fact this paves the way for that. So we have an ideal situation, where we can remove all doubt and uncertainty in the minds of the American people that their wishes will be respected for us to work together to give them a tax cut and inject demand into the economy to create jobs and to continue our economic growth. That’s what this does and at the same time, enables us to go right to the table tomorrow. We can stay here, right to the table tomorrow, to start working on what we need to do in order to make it a 10-month arrangement.

I know how sophisticated you are. You’re probably just asking because you’re curious of my view. But I know you must know that the success that the Senate had, Mr. Clyburn told me, I missed this scene, that Leader McConnell was high-fiving one of his Members, high-fiving after, so proud they were of this accomplishment. So let’s take yes for an answer. And one of the reasons not to go further with it right now, the Republicans do not want a payroll tax cut for the middle class. They said they don’t believe in extending tax cuts. So when we asked, ‘Well, why do you want to extend the tax cut for the wealthiest people in our country?’ And they said ‘Well, that should be permanent.’ So we know where they are and we know where we can’t go with this.

Whip Hoyer. Let me, I want to say something on your question. The reason is because it perpetuates the uncertainty that Mr. Boehner says he doesn’t want. None of us have watched this legislative process and think things are certain. We do know for certainty that the Senate has passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan extension of these three very, very important items. We do know for certainty, if we pass that tomorrow, and send it to the President, the President will sign it. We don’t know for certain, if he does that, that people will not lose their middle class tax cut, they will not lose SGR reimbursement and unemployment insurance will continue for those who need it. We know that for certain.

So when you ask, ‘What’s wrong with it?’ Because it perpetuates the very uncertainty of which Mr. Boehner and the Republican Conference complain. We can get certainty tomorrow by passing the Senate’s middle class tax cut, unemployment insurance continuation and the SGR, the doctor reimbursement for Medicare patients.

Q: Madam Leader, the House recently voted on the payroll tax cut extension. You just said that the Republicans don’t want to have the tax cut for the middle class, most Democrats voted against that tax cut. Square those two things: why is it that when Democrats vote against the payroll tax cut package, they’re for it and when Republicans for it, their against it?

Leader Pelosi. Well, I know how closely you attended the particulars of the legislation. And you will know that there were poison pills intentionally built into that bill so that it would not be acceptable in the Senate, nor signed by the President. And so, under the guise of ‘Well, we’re for a tax cut but we’re going to wrap it in so much stuff,’ again, it had seeds of its own destruction built into it. Again, another farce. Another situation where they say: ‘We’re really for this.’ I told you, it’s like a fiancé, some man courting a woman and she says to him: ‘Really, I’d love to marry you. I’ll marry you on February 30th.’ Well, that day’s never coming. And neither is the date coming when the Republicans are going to be honest about what their putting on the floor and straight forward about really having a clean payroll tax cut there without all of the obstructions that make it impossible for us to vote for, the Senate to accept and the President to sign.

I think it’s really important for the American people to know. You wanted us to work together. We have. You wanted us to get a payroll tax cut. We have the opportunity. You want this to keep the momentum going on economic growth and job creation. It does it. Let’s just get down to it. Put the bill on the floor. Take your chances with your own Caucus. See if they’re willing to vote for it. And that’s probably why the story changed from the Leader saying that they were going to take up the bill. You were there weren’t you? When he said we’re going to take up the Senate bill tomorrow? In a matter of minutes that was gone. So, again, I think that there are many in the Republican Caucus who probably would like to vote for this clean bill. It’s relatively clean. I would write it differently, but [that is] what compromise is about. And we’ve all had to cooperate on it. So, yeah, no. If you really are for it, just put out there in a way that brings people together but doesn’t have the seeds of its own destruction in it. That’s not fair to the American people.

Whip Hoyer. Can I make a short addition? Senator McConnell, in the debate on the bill that got 89 votes, said: ‘This is designed to pass.’ After coming out of a conversation in the Speaker’s office.

Secondly, let me just finish this thought. You asked why we opposed it? It was designed to fail. It was designed to pretend that they wanted that bill. But they built into that, things that they knew that the Senate would not agree to. How do I know that? Because the Republicans would not allow it to come to a vote on the Senate floor. They objected to its consideration. That is why.

Assistant Leader Clyburn. I just wanted to mention, I’m sure I heard this. The Speaker said, yesterday, that there were 300 votes in the House against the Senate bill. So, if that’s true, why not bring it to the floor? He said there were 300 votes against. So he should bring it to the floor.