POLITICS

Steny Hoyer: House Dem Vote To Reject Tax Cut Deal Doesn't Move Debate

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who controls the floor schedule for the House of Representatives, said that Thursday morning's Democratic vote to urge leadership not to take the Obama-GOP tax deal to the floor doesn't represent "any move" in the debate.

"I don't think there's been any move. There's been an expression, which has not been secret, that many members of the House are not pleased with the package," he told reporters as he left the meeting. I don't think that's a surprise to anybody so I don't think there's been any move in that sense."

Hoyer said that the House has no choice but to deal with the package that the Senate sends its way. "The Senate is going to deal with this bill first and we're going to have to deal with the product and we have very strong feelings about what we think ought to be in there," he said.

Asked by HuffPost if there was any chance leadership would bring the current deal to the House floor despite the wishes of the caucus, Hoyer said that such a determination was premature.

"You keep talking about 'this.' There is no 'this' yet until the Senate acts," he said.

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), meanwhile, said that such a determination was not his to make and called for ethanol subsidies to be added to the package. The New York delegation is pushing for subsidies for people suffering negative health consequences related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Progressives are aiming to heighten the estate tax and restructure the payroll tax holiday.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that after the tax cuts for the wealthy and the estate tax, the payroll tax holiday was the most concerning part of the package for many members. By allowing the Making Work Pay tax credit to expire and replacing it with a payroll tax cut, said Grijalva, the poorest workers will see an increase in their taxes, an offensive result to coincide with the extension of tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. And the payroll tax disproportionately benefits those making $100,000 as compared to those making less.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) said Democrats are pushing to restructure the payroll tax holiday into a one-time payment to insure that it doesn't become permanent and harm Social Security.

The threat to Social Security is a real one, said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) co-chair of the CPC. "On the surface, the payroll tax reduction of two percent is attractive, but when you get past the surface, it's deeply disturbing," he said. "Because what it means is we'll replace the loss of money from Social Security with general fund money, but in the past Social Security has been raided to help fund general fund programs. So how long will it be before somebody says Social Security is not sustainable and we need to cut the program."

The payroll tax holiday was attractive to the GOP, Larry Summers said Wednesday afternoon. "It came out of the process of compromise with the Republicans who were more attracted to the payroll tax holiday concept, and that was a proposal that, as had been coming out of here, we had been giving considerable thought to in the context of the President's budget," he said.