Brown, Portman fight for tax deal

Two U.S. senators from Ohio say their colleagues in the House of Representatives should continue to work on a deal to reauthorize the payroll tax reduction before the end of the year.
“I’m incredulous
that the House of Representatives is willing to allow taxes to go up for 160 million families in our country and unemployment benefits to expire for 70,000 Ohioans,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said Wednesday during a media teleconference. “This was a bipartisan agreement in the Senate. We thought we had the support of the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the House, in turn could convince his members, as speakers usually do, to support this bipartisan compromise.”
Before adjourning, senators voted on a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday. However, the measure failed a vote in the House and the reduction is scheduled to expire Dec. 31.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman also urged members of the House to work together to solve the issue.
“My feeling is the two sides need to come together to solve this and solve it now so we don’t go into the new year with more uncertainty for Ohio families and the economy,” Portman said Wednesday during a teleconference with regional media. “Recall there’s strong bipartisan support for extending the payroll tax cut and the extension of the unemployment insurance.”
Brown voiced his displeasure with Republicans affecting the lives of millions of Americans and the way it may affect the economy.
“It bothers me in two ways — one is what it means to the discretionary spending of tens of millions of American families that need that roughly $100 a month pay increase, which will be a pay decrease if they lose that tax cut,” Brown said. “And second it bothers me on what it does to the economy ... it makes no sense that House Republicans are playing politics with something that passed overwhelming with enthusiastic, bipartisan support in the Senate.”
Brown said he would favor a call to return for all members of Congress to work on a deal before it expires in 10 days. He also called out House Republicans for falling to consider the seriousness of its actions.
“The House, for whatever reason, isn’t able to function and do this,” Brown said. “I think Speaker (John) Boehner is a reasonable guy, a smart guy, and I think he assumed he could get it through the House and the House members blocked him and didn’t listen to their speaker.”
Returning to Washington to strike a deal is vital, Brown noted.
“This was something where we ironed out all these differences and came to an agreement in the Senate, overwhelmingly both parties, we were told implicitly that Speaker Boehner would go along with it,” Brown said. “We just shouldn’t be doing this to the country. Why the House of Representatives, with their sort of political, radical agenda, did this is beyond my understanding.”
Critics in the House have called into question the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut as not sufficient enough to deal with the issue. Brown said the deal would have allowed members of Congress to continue to work on a deal after the start of the new year while keeping the reduction in place.
“I want to see this continue,” Brown said. “This is the same group of people in the House, many of whom didn’t want a payroll tax cut period and were against it, and now they are saying the Democrats are only doing it for two months. It’s not just the Democrats, it’s 89 senators of both parties, including a Republican and Democratic senator from Ohio who want to see this done. Let’s do the two months so we can get this done with so people can know its certain and then let’s talk about extending it for a year.”
Portman said approving a two-month extension would buy both sides time to work on striking a long-term deal. Portman noted if a conference committee is established to handle the matter this year, he would return to Washington.
“I am ready to get on a plane today, tomorrow or whenever,” Portman said. “The point is let’s get this done.”
If no deal can be reached, Portman said the Senate’s measure should be approved. Portman also acknowledged when he left Saturday, he expected the House to approval the Senate’s compromise regarding the payroll tax.
“My understanding was that this would be something that would be resolved,” Portman said, noting he preferred a yearlong extension of the payroll tax reduction. “If Democrats can agree to the necessary spending reductions to come up with a longer-ternm approach, that would be preferable.”
While the year is drawing to an end, Portman said he remained confident a deal could still be reached to avert an increase in the payroll tax.
“It’s certainly possible,” Portman said. “I don’t think there is a huge disagreement here. Both sides want to extend the payroll tax, both sides want to extend unemployment insurance, the question is how to pay for them.”