Political Animal


December 02, 2011 8:00 AM GOP blocks payroll tax break plans

By Steve Benen

The Senate held two votes on extending a payroll tax cut for more than 160 million Americans, most of whom are middle class. As expected, Republicans killed them both. What was unexpected, though, was the vote totals on the proposals.

First up was the Democratic plan, which would have kept the payroll break in place for another year, and pay for it with a slight surtax on millionaires and billionaires. A 51-member Senate majority supported the bill, but that was far short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.

It’s worth noting that one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, broke ranks and supported the Dems’ proposal. Since the economic push began in earnest in early September, Collins is the first Republican senator to vote for any Democratic jobs proposal. It didn’t affect the outcome, but given the current climate, this is what constitutes progress in 2011.

Of course, the fact that nearly every Republican senator would rather raise taxes on 160 million people, than ask millionaires and billionaires to pay a little more isn’t progress at all.

What was just as interesting was the next vote, when the Senate considered the GOP alternative, which would also keep the payroll break in place, but pay for it largely through a pay freeze on federal workers.

A Republican alternative, which would have extended the current more modest tax cut and slashed the federal payroll to pay for it, was rejected 78 to 20, with more than half of Republicans opposed.

Yep, most Republican senators opposed their own party’s legislation. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters the other day there is now “a majority sentiment” within his caucus for continuing the payroll break, but that claim is now very much in doubt.

John Aravosis summarized the problem.

So a majority of Republicans voted against the Democratic plan to extend the payroll tax cut, and a majority of Republicans voted against even the Republican plan to extend the payroll tax cut.

In other words, the Republicans don’t want to extend the payroll tax cut at all. They want to raise taxes on every single working American. Not just the middle class — if you have a job, the GOP just voted to raise your taxes for Christmas.

This is not to say that the payroll tax cut is dead. On the contrary, both of last night’s Senate measures were largely test votes, intended to show where the parties stood in advance of the next round of negotiations.

But the result of this test is pretty clear: most GOP senators would prefer to see the payroll tax break disappear at the end of the month, regardless of warnings about its detrimental effect on the economy, and regardless of the position of their own party’s leadership. It’s going to make the coming search for a bipartisan solution that much more difficult.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Hedda Peraz on December 02, 2011 8:03 AM:

    Why would we vote to give working stiffs our money?
    If they want more money in their paycheck they should work harder.

  • c u n d gulag on December 02, 2011 8:11 AM:

    Poor Sen. Collins.
    She is now dead to the GOP.

    After the autopsy, it's going to be hard for the coroner to explain how Collin's body, found hanging from a noose in her home, with bullets from a full Glock clip, 5 different poisons and three bottles of Valium in her bloodstream, 60 knife wounds, and "Liberal!" carved in her chest, was a suicide.

    Political SUICIDE - YES!
    But regular suicide? A tough case...

  • Steve M. on December 02, 2011 8:11 AM:

    160 million Americans, most of whom are middle class.

    Not for much longer.

  • c u n d gulag on December 02, 2011 8:13 AM:

    You're forgetting getting a 3rd or 4th job!
    In the words of Little Boots, "How American..."

  • Matt on December 02, 2011 8:32 AM:

    You're forgetting what the GOP thinks they have figured out. If the payroll tax lapses, the average worker blames the Democratic president, not the people who actually voted against it. "Obama's raising our taxes again." it's just more sabatoging of the economy to beat the president.

  • Menthol on December 02, 2011 8:35 AM:

    The Republicans don't just want to strangle government in the bathtub, they want to strangle the entire economy.

    (Excellent captcha: "further. errectab")

  • Kurt Rex Cooper on December 02, 2011 8:50 AM:

    So, bye bye Mr GOP guy
    Raised our taxes
    On Christmas
    So now we will cry,
    "The election is a-commin'
    And we know you will lie,
    Saying government must die
    Saying government must die."

  • Bobsled on December 02, 2011 8:55 AM:

    The Republicans are hoping that this little tax increase will be blamed on Obama on 2012. The sad thing is - they are probably right. If only he had been more hands on. /snark off

  • Ron Byers on December 02, 2011 8:59 AM:

    Senate Republicans were aware that unemployment dropped to 8.6 percent in November. In their minds this will never do. They have to do something sure fire to wreck the economy. Reducing money in the pockets of 160 million Americans is a start.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on December 02, 2011 9:00 AM:

    both of last night's Senate measures were largely test votes

    So half of Republican's stepped-up to "play crazy" and give the leadership more bargaining room. Where have I seen this movie before?

  • chi res on December 02, 2011 9:18 AM:

    ...half of Republican's stepped-up to "play crazy"...

    Play? Hardly. They're just acting normally.

  • T2 on December 02, 2011 9:26 AM:

    remember - No Wins for Obama. at any cost.

  • berttheclock on December 02, 2011 9:29 AM:

    @cundgulag, it was because when the medical examiner walked in, the music in the background was "and suicide is painless, it brings about many changes"

    But, I see the Mantra of "Leave no Millionaire behind" is still in effect.

    CAPTCHA is O'Reilly toesndu - He's into toes, as well?

  • Josef K on December 02, 2011 9:29 AM:

    Once again the question is asked: isn't this how revolutions get started?

  • Another Steve on December 02, 2011 9:36 AM:

    Of course they're against it. Now that unemployment's dropped below 9%, they're going to be desperate to strangle demand. Freeze federal pay, raise taxes on the poor and the middle class, whatever it takes.

  • SW on December 02, 2011 9:48 AM:

    Yes but the campaign ads write themselves and the Senate is no longer in danger of going Republican. I'll take that.

  • chi res on December 02, 2011 9:58 AM:

    ...isn't this how revolutions get started?

    Maybe just a tad more tyranny and another big scoop of economic hardship.

  • OKDem on December 02, 2011 10:00 AM:

    Has anyone else looked at the vote on the Democratic proposal?

    All 100 senators voted. Tester and Manchin were nays, no surprise, but Bernie Sanders voted Nay. What's with that????


  • bubba on December 02, 2011 10:09 AM:

    It will all be settled by passing the payroll tax cut without paying for it in any way, probably with an up-er-down vote.

    I bet there are at least 10 in the GORP (grand old regressive party) who will stick to their usual dogma that tax cuts need not be paid for because they pay for themselves--better that and taking a slight budget hit than raising taxes on the uber wealthy. Because, as we all know, it's not about the deficit...

  • j on December 02, 2011 10:20 AM:

    So, now that the new GOP tactic is that all tax cuts have to be paid for I suppose they are figuring how they will pay for the extension of the Bush tax cuts in 2012!

  • Trollop on December 02, 2011 10:24 AM:

    There's the GOP again, sharing the sacrifice!

    Fuckers must burn. Oh wait, no bid contracts are up!

  • Texas Aggie on December 02, 2011 12:37 PM:

    Someone (Obama) has to make it perfectly clear who SPECIFICALLY voted to reject this measure. He needs to name names and tell their constituents what their senator voted for. He needs to get people to call their senators.

  • Raychel on December 02, 2011 12:54 PM:

    This is disingenuous at best, they're not "raising" taxes, it's like the Bush "tax cuts" when it expires it goes back to being what it was but nothing is raised.

  • impartial on December 02, 2011 2:46 PM:

    Ok Dem:

    Bernie Sanders voted "nay" because as his website states "it would siphon funds from Social Security" as proposed.

  • Mouring on December 02, 2011 5:28 PM:

    @Raychel So the housing market didn't "crash" it just "went back to the 1980s rate?" Or we're not in a recession just the market "went back to the 1940s rate?"

    Talk bout being disingenuous.... =)

  • Easy Victor on December 02, 2011 6:49 PM:


    Let's see if we can get this together. If your taxes GO UP and you PAY MORE MONEY, that's raising taxes. Doesn't matter HOW it happens. If the Senate doesn't vote to extend the payroll tax breaks, then TAXES GO UP and the middle class PAYS MORE MONEY.

    Do you comprehend now? Or don't you give a sh*t about your fellow man?

    The semantics bulls*it used to work for some, but it's so old that no one listens to that crap anymore.

  • Doug on December 03, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Matt and Ron Buyers for the win!

  • chi res on December 03, 2011 1:27 PM:

    Bernie Sanders voted "nay" because as his website states "it would siphon funds from Social Security" as proposed.

    Fucking purists are worse than the enemy sometimes.

  • Paul J Doke on December 04, 2011 8:53 AM:

    ...Wait just a minute here, do you mean to tell me that there is a middle class?

  • James L Jallos on December 22, 2011 1:30 PM:

    As usual Mr. Benen notes the one Republican that broke ranks but in his honest and unbiased reporting he forgets to name the Democrats who also voted against it. The same was true when the Dems controlled both houses and wanted "bipartisan" support yet couldn't always get all their group to agree as they didn't need bipartisan support for the only reason they want one Republican to vote with them is to put the word "bipartisan" on top of it. The same with the Pres who gleefully parades the outcome of those for the tax cut and speaks of the majority of the "people" wanting it and therfore those opposed should do the right thing which was totally ignored when the mojority of the same "people" didn't want his medical reforms yet he cared less and jammed it down their throats and the same with his opposition to "border" protection where he will send troops to aid those in Eygpt but not Arizona where border anxiety and mayhem are on the rise. If they are unbiased I am Babe Ruth. Merry Christmas and "Kronia Polla".