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Camp Floor Statement: Senate Amendment to H.R. 3630

December 20, 2011

The differences between the bipartisan, House-passed “Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act” and what the Senate did so it could go on vacation could not be clearer.

The House bill put the American people first.  It provided certainty for middle-class families struggling to make ends meet by extending the payroll tax holiday;

It provided certainty for those left behind in this economy by extending not only unemployment benefits for one-year, but also the nation’s welfare program;

It provided certainty to seniors by ensuring their doctors would not see reimbursement rates slashed by nearly 30 percent;

And, it provided incentives for job creators looking for ways to hire more workers by extending tax relief.  

The Senate decided not to do any of this.  Worse yet, in a rush to get home before the Holidays, the Senate passed something that is totally unworkable. Yesterday, the Congress received a letter from the National Payroll Reporting Consortium, a non-profit trade association whose members cover more than one-third of the private sector workforce.  Their letter says the Senate bill “could create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees.”

The National Federation of Independent Business, the largest small business advocacy group in the nation representing 350,000 small business owners nationwide and in every state, has issued a statement on the Senate bill.  They say, “The two month payroll tax holiday would present a number of complications and costs that would disproportionately affect small businesses…In addition, many small employers do payroll processing in-house by hand, and this would require them to spend time to make these changes.”

With more than five million people working in the construction industry, this is what the Associated General Contractors have said about the Senate bill: “This legislation will extend the payroll tax holiday in the most complex way possible, at the busiest time possible, provide little benefit to taxpayers and unfairly hit the small member companies of the Associated General Contractors of America the hardest. This legislation will add more uncertainty, more confusion (for employers and employees) [and] more complexity (especially for small employers)…Any economic benefit derived from the law would likely be eaten up by the inefficiency and confusion surrounding the bill’s implementation.”

Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that these letters along with letters in opposition to the Senate bill from the National Roofing Contractors Association, which has over 4,000 members and is represented in every state; the Associated Builders and Contractors, which represent over 2 million American workers; and, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council with over 100,000 members, be entered into the record.

Our economy is too weak and the American people have been struggling far too long for Congress not to work out our differences.  America is not on vacation; nor should the Senate be.  We have two weeks to find a solution and send something to the President for his signature.  That is what House Republicans are proposing to do today.

Let’s look at the differences between the House and Senate:

  • The House extended unemployment benefits for 13 months.  The Senate bill extended unemployment benefits for only two months, meaning an estimated 4 million Americans could lose the extended unemployment benefits next year they would get under the House bill.
  • The House reformed the unemployment program to focus it more on getting people the training and education they need to get back to work, not just handing out checks. The Senate did not.
  • The House protected seniors’ health care for the next two years by ensuring doctors in the Medicare program don’t have their reimbursements cut by more than 27 percent.  The Senate did this for only two months.
  • The House provided a one-year extension of the payroll tax holiday, ensuring a worker earning $50,000 next year has $1,000 more in their pocket.  The Senate did this for only two months, meaning that same worker would have less than $200 in their pocket, or $800 less in take-home pay than under the House-passed bill.
  • The House included a pay freeze for Members of Congress and civilian federal workers.  The Senate did not.
  • The House put an end to welfare benefits being accessed at ATMs located in casinos, liquor stores and strip clubs.  The Senate did not.
  • The House protected Social Security by reducing overpayments.  The Senate did not.
  • The House included a provision that saves taxpayers $9 billion by cracking down on fraud and abuse that is known to exist in a refundable tax credit program.  The Senate did not.
  • The House provided for economic growth and job creation in the high-tech industry through spectrum auctions.  The Senate did not.  
  • The House cut taxes to promote business investment and hiring.  The Senate did not.

Mr. Speaker, while it may sound like there are great differences between the House and Senate bill, it is not a difference over policy.  It is simply a difference between the House deciding to act, and the Senate deciding not to act on so many items.

The House bill includes the commonsense reforms the American people want, and it adopts a number of the President’s legislative initiatives, which represents the bipartisan cooperation Americans are demanding.  All told, 90 percent of the House bill is paid for with policies the President has endorsed in one form or another.

So, what is really standing in our way?  I’ve heard the President’s people say that this breaks the agreement over the discretionary caps in the Budget Control Act.  But look behind that talking point.  Those caps are adjusted only because we are proposing, as the President has before, to freeze the pay of Members of Congress and other federal workers.  

Do the President and the Senate really want to risk unemployment benefits, a middle class tax cut and reimbursements to doctors treating seniors and those with disabilities because they don’t want to freeze pay for Members of Congress and federal workers?

Mr. Speaker, it is not too late.  I urge all of my House colleagues to support a one-year extension of the payroll tax holiday, one-year of unemployment benefits with critical reforms and a two-year extension of reimbursements for Medicare doctors.  I urge my Democratic colleagues to name conference committee members to resolve the differences between the two bills – conference committee’s are a Jeffersonian concept and we would be wise to follow the model laid out by one of our Founding Fathers.  If the Senate agrees to work together, we will help get the American people back to work and get those struggling in this economy the help they need.