Democrats' tough choice: shut down government or swallow GOP's bills
GOP-led House has approved a payroll tax cut for workers in 2012 and is poised to vote on an omnibus spending bill for this fiscal year. Democrats want changes to both, but they appear to have lost much leverage.
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The final omnibus spending bill includes even more spending, as well as controversial policy riders.Skip to next paragraph
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“Some riders got in, some got knocked out, and I don’t even know – and I’m on the appropriations committee,” he adds. “Whenever we come to an impasse, our leadership says, we can’t shut the government down. We haven’t had the leverage in any negotiation we’ve gone into. That’s what’s frustrating to me.”
Senate Democrats, unable to move their own version of a payroll tax extension after two votes this year, also need lawmakers from the other side of the aisle to move legislation. For months, they have demanded more sacrifice from the top 1 percent of taxpayers – a keystone of their legislative and 2012 campaign strategy.
Senate Democrats have proposed paying for extending the payroll tax cuts with a 3.25 percent surtax on income above $1 million a year. By opposing this tax hike, Republicans were on “seemingly indefensible ground,” said Senate majority leader Harry Reid, in a floor speech setting up the issue on Nov. 30.
“A bill that will cut taxes for 92 percent of American families and every single business in the nation without addition a penny to the deficit may not get a single Republican vote because it would cost a few incredibly prosperous Americans two weeks pay,” he said at the time.
(In fact, Senate Democrats' version of a payroll tax extension did win one GOP vote on Dec. 1, from Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance to the Senate floor.)
Most Americans want millionaires to pay higher taxes, polls show. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say they want an extension of the payroll tax cut, which fell from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent in 2011 tax “holiday,” according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
But after the House GOP blitz to pass its own version of a payroll tax extension and, now, an omnibus spending bill, Democrats have lost much of their leverage. By late Wednesday, Democrats were saying privately that the surtax on millionaires may have to be dropped.
“We are willing to negotiate the millionaires' surtax to see a resolution to the payroll tax,” said a senior Democratic aide on Thursday. “If negotiation means dropping the millionaires' surtax in exchange for dropping the Keystone [oil] pipeline, we’re willing to have that conversation.”
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