Payroll tax cut in danger: Would Nancy Pelosi have gotten it passed?
Payroll tax cut advocates had hoped a Senate deal Saturday would keep the Social Security payroll tax cut in effect for 2012. But the House, under Speaker John Boehner, it set to reject the deal.
Whatever the uncertainty surrounding the future of the payroll tax cut – and much remains uncertain – this much seems plain: If Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) of California was still the speaker of the House, the debate would be over by now.Skip to next paragraph
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This is not an indictment of the leadership of current House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio, nor is it an acknowledgment that Democrats, in general, have been quicker to endorse an extension of the payroll tax cut.
It is an acknowledgment that what happened Saturday night would never have happened if Congresswoman Pelosi were still holding the reins of the House.
This is what happened.
The Senate, as is its habit, hammered out a compromise. No one wants the payroll tax holiday passed last year to end. It trimmed Social Security payroll taxes from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, thereby giving the average American a $1,000 tax break.
True, it was intended as a one-year measure to help hurting Americans, but temporary tax cuts rarely remain temporary. So the Senate agreed to extend the payroll tax cut two months – a bill that allowed them to go home and hang their stockings without having to solve the tough question of how to pay for the tax break.
What happened next was pure Boehner. He called the members of the House and asked them what they thought.
What he heard was not positive. Based on those talks, he said House and Senate leaders should discuss how to extend the payroll tax cut for a full year – not just two months.
The problem: The Senate left Washington Saturday and is not planning to return until next year. What this means is that, for the moment, the hope of extending the payroll tax cut before the end of 2011 appears dead.
The story might seem to be typical Washington gridlock, but it is not. A House speaker asking his representatives what they think about a politically important bill – one that could backfire on his own party come election time – might not seem such a momentous thing. But in the world of the House of Representatives, it is akin to turning over the car keys for drinking a Shirley Temple.