Extending the payroll tax

Washington ends 2011 in the midst of the same frustration that has existed throughout the year. Once again the Republican-led House of Representatives is choosing a standoff with the Senate and the White House and, as in past experiences, the interests of the majority of Americans are being held hostage by the situation.

The House’s opposition to the Senate’s bipartisan agreement to extend the payroll tax cut means that more than 180 million face the threat of a significant increase in the Social Security deduction from their paycheck, reducing the amount of take-home pay.

In this specific case, the House has fallen back on its all-too-familiar bad habits. It received the proposal the White House wanted and then chose to exploit the occasion to tack on measures that had nothing at all to do with the main issue – and, for which it lacked majority support.

The House bill, HR 3630. not only extends the payroll tax cut, but it also imposes a permanent change to the federal unemployment insurance program by reducing the number of weeks of benefits.

It also puts in place measures to block environmental regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency, reductions in a number of federal programs, and it accelerates a decision on the Keystone energy pipeline, which Obama opposes.

Republicans didn’t lose the opportunity to include a punitive measure against the undocumented. Now they want to ensure that tax-paying undocumented immigrants can’t receive IRS checks for child tax credits. Can it be any more arbitrary!

The House needs to put aside its ideological agenda and ratify the Senate’s decision now. The Republican leadership is playing to its conservative base, which is unhappy with the Senate’s agreement, but at the end of the day, it must accept the two-month payroll tax cut extension instead of its own bill.

Not to do so means the benefit would expire on January and the Republicans will be the ones needing to explain why they allowed a tax hike on workers when they always oppose raising taxes on wealthiest.