On Tuesday, the House voted 229 to 193 to reject the Senate’s two-month payroll tax package and to resolve the differences on the measure through a conference committee.
All but seven House Republicans present voted in favor of going to conference and rejecting the Senate-passed package, while all House Democrats present opposed the motion.
Who were the seven Republicans who voted “no,” and why did they break ranks with their party?
Two of the seven lawmakers, Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.), voted “no” because they oppose the idea of the payroll tax holiday, which they argue would lead to the insolvency of the Social Security Trust Fund.
“Unless we summon the courage to reform our entitlement programs, we shouldn’t be reducing the dedicated revenue stream,” Flake said in a statement. “The extension of the payroll tax holiday will hasten the insolvency of Social Security and exacerbate our fiscal crisis. Even worse, we’re using dishonest budget gimmicks that supposedly pay for this one-year extension with spending cuts or new fees over 10 years that we all know will never materialize.”
Wolf said in a floor statement Tuesday that he does not support “any of the costly proposals to extend the temporary payroll ‘holiday,’ which destabilizes the Social Security Trust Fund and does nothing to enact the needed long-term structural reforms necessary to right our fiscal state of ship.”
“Washington is dysfunctional,” he said. “After months of passionately debating the importance of reducing the deficit, the president and Congress are now advocating for a policy that’s barely, if at all, improved our economic outlook and further contributes to our crushing debt burden.”
The other five GOP “no” votes were Reps. Charlie Bass (R-N.H.), Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), Tim Johnson (R-Ill.), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), and Walter Jones (R-N.C.).
Bass, Herrera Beutler and Johnson all issued statements arguing in favor of a longer-term deal but expressing support for the Senate’s two-month package in order to avoid the expiration of the payroll tax holiday and other provisions on New Year’s Day. Statements from Jones and Gibson were not immediately available.
The statements from Johnson, Herrera Beutler and Bass are below.
Jamie Herrera Beutler:
“I support continuing the payroll tax cut, extending unemployment insurance and making sure Medicare patients have access to the medical care they need. I had hoped the Senate would have agreed that a year extension is better than 2 months. But I know that families in Southwest Washington are struggling to make ends meet, and I wanted to eliminate any of their fear that this relief wouldn’t be in place January 1.”
“While I prefer a longer-term solution, had it come up as a vote today, I would have voted for the Senate’s two-month extension to ensure New Hampshire families won’t see their taxes increase on January 1st. It’s unfortunate that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is playing political games and refuses to bring the Senate back into session to work on this issue. But a two-month extension is better than none at all and would give the House and Senate some more time to work out differences in January and February.”
“There is agreement on the need to extend these provisions. I support these measures individually and there are reasonable ways to pay for it. To laden this measure down with political agendas and extraneous, irrelevant riders is simply unacceptable. Unfortunately, this is part of business-as-usual inside the beltway politics and I refuse to be part of that misplaced strategy.”
“Today’s vote requested the Senate form a conference to meet with a select group of Members hand-picked by the leadership. The motion to request a conference further centralizes the decision-making process in the United States Congress. Leadership from both sides of the House have further alienated the rank-and-file members and, by extension, the people they represent.”
“Democrats and Republicans have whipsawed these issues back and forth to the detriment of American taxpayers. My vote reflected my objections to the process that resulted in delivering the American people a nonviable solution. We could have worked this problem out weeks, even months ago, if there had been the political will to do so. Instead, this appears to be an attempt to force through legislation that is too important to fail.”
Democrats have argued that if the Senate-passed measure were brought to the floor for a straight up-or-down vote, it would most likely pass the chamber. The fact that only seven Republicans voted “no” Tuesday – two of whom have stated that they oppose any payroll tax holiday — would suggest that the Senate deal still has a ways to go in securing the 218 votes necessary for passage: even if all 192 Democrats voted “yes,” the Senate deal would fall nearly two-dozen votes short of a simple majority.
Still, with pressure ratcheting up on House leaders Wednesday – including from on the presidential trail – an increasing number of Republican lawmakers could soon find themselves hard-pressed to oppose the two-month deal.