The television screens are in constant replay of Speaker John Boehner calling for the Democrats to return to Washington and address the payroll tax issue … well, that was commercial television … instead if you tuned into CSPAN this morning, you saw the Opening Gavel of a new legislative day precisely at 10:00:46, a morning prayer, approval of the previous day’s journal and the request for Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-08) to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. At the conclusion of the pledge, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD-05) requested a vote on the Senate approved payroll tax extension … at which time the Speaker’s gavel came slamming down, ending the session at 10:02:59, and walking off the floor … even though Representative Hoyer was still speaking … Representative Hoyer continued “You’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers [and] the unemployed. We regret, Mr. Speaker, that you have walked off the platform without addressing this issue of critical importance to this country” and within seconds the screen went blank … the GOP literally turned off the lights as the cameras stopped recording.
Yes, the Pillars of a New Majority have crumbled.
Taxpayers paid Members of Congress a base salary of $174,000 … and they “worked” less than three minutes.
Worse yet, the Democrats wanted to do what Speaker Boehner requested … vote on a bill that would address the payroll tax issue.
Today’s Wall Street Journal OpEd assessed the situation : The entire exercise is political, but Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics. If Republicans didn’t want to extend the payroll tax cut on the merits, then they should have put together a strategy and the arguments for defeating it and explained why.
So, for those that did not hear the debate from the previous day, the issue of “politics” and “merits” were discussed …
On politics, Tim Walz (D-MN-01) offered this statement :
Mr. WALZ Mr. Speaker, again, this august body displayed the worst of what we can do. The opportunity to try and compromise was there. I have to say, last week I supported a bill put forward by my Republican friends, sent it to the Senate. It came back. And as the previous speaker said, I didn’t even get a chance to vote on it. The real tragedy here is that there is another piece of legislation that is being held up that the American public knows needs to happen.
We can have a difference of political opinions across the aisle. The one that needs to get done is to believe people here are playing by the rules. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, the insider-trading bill that’s 18 pages long, it’s been sitting around for 6 years. It now has 240 bipartisan cosponsors. It is now suddenly buried and gone. The American people demand us to do one thing: be honest and work for them. That bill can ensure that happens.
Representative Walz is promoting H.R. 1148 — The STOCK Act … and since the GOP-managed House wants to include favoring Keystone pipeline business interests in their legislation, Representative Walz correctly realizes as previously mentioned the STOCK Act must be passed in conjunction with Keystone.
Now, the merits as the WSJ opined were honestly presented by Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ-06):
Mr. FLAKE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
One year ago, Mr. Speaker, many of us stood in this Chamber and pleaded with the leadership on both sides of the aisle not to put this payroll tax holiday in place. It was bad policy to put it in place, and it’s bad policy to extend it. By the end of this year, we will have taken a quarter of a trillion dollars from the Social Security trust fund. And for what purpose?
In our candid moments, we must confess that this effort is more toward securing votes than securing economic growth.
We may point fingers across the aisle, but it’s a pox on both of our Houses. Democrats paint themselves as champions of Social Security; yet they blissfully endorse taking another $120 billion out of the Social Security trust fund. We Republicans paint ourselves as fierce guardians of the public purse; yet we’re eager to pretend that the payroll tax holiday is paid for by fleeting fees and phantom spending cuts.
We keep hearing that we’re kicking the can down the road. We’re $15 trillion in debt. Ten thousand baby boomers retire every year into a program that is already running in the red. Mr. Speaker, we’re out of road. The responsible thing to do is to not extend this payroll tax holiday for 2 months or for 12 months.
Both Representative Walz and Representative Flake voted against the Speaker’s instructions … however the Speaker did get the votes of three members from the Minnesota delegation — John Kline (R-MN-02), Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03) and Raymond Cravaack (R-MN-08) … who — using WSJ word “backbenchers” — did not go to the floor to make a public record. Considering Mr. Kline and Mr. Paulsen statements to MPR that they do not want to allow the tax relief but do not the have the political strength of Representative Flake to not follow the Leader’s instructions.
For now, the House’s lights are off .. And whatever is negotiated will be done in the dark.