published Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Trio of Chattanooga-area lawmakers supports payroll tax cut

by Chris Carroll

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    U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., responds to a question from Danielle Hooper during a town hall-type meeting Monday at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School in Ringgold, Ga.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
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Should Congress extend the payroll tax cut?

The latest political battle in Washington, which involves payroll taxes and oil pipelines, found local Republican lawmakers siding with House leadership Tuesday evening.

U.S. Reps. Scott DesJarlais, Chuck Fleischmann and Tom Graves voted to extend a cut in payroll taxes for 160 million middle-class Americans.

But it has almost no chance of becoming law.

Passed 234-193 mostly along party lines, the bill would prevent a scheduled increase in payroll taxes, but it cleared the GOP-controlled House because it was packaged with unrelated provisions, including one that could accelerate construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The proposal also would reduce the 99-week-cap on jobless benefits to 59 weeks.

President Barack Obama has said he would veto any attempt to pair the oil pipeline with an extension of the payroll tax holiday, a key part of his jobs plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the latest proposal a "partisan charade," adding that Tuesday's House action would be "dead on arrival" in his chamber.

Payroll taxes will increase for the middle class at the beginning of the year if the House and Senate can't agree. Obama has said a payroll tax hike would add more than $1,000 to the average American's expenses.

Despite the impasse, local conservative legislators celebrated their votes, sending out news releases late Tuesday night and blaming Democrats for playing politics.

"If they are serious about wanting tax relief for the middle class and lowering unemployment in this country, it's time for the Senate and president to act," said Fleischmann, of Chattanooga.

In DesJarlais' case, the congressman from Jasper, Tenn., recently said he would oppose any extension of the payroll tax holiday because it would cut into Social Security. Changing course with his vote and issuing a statement, he touched on the payroll tax issue, but devoted ample space to the oil pipeline.

"Finally, this bill will require the president to put politics aside and make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline," DesJarlais said. "Americans should not be made to wait a minute longer than necessary for projects that will create badly needed jobs."

Graves, who represents parts of North Georgia, speculated what would happen if the Keystone pipeline isn't built on American terms.

"If we don't move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline now, we are giving China a full year to come to Canada, make those investments, lock up that oil and encourage that pipeline to go -- not to the Gulf Coast -- but to Vancouver," he said. "From there, the oil would go on ships to China. We need to keep those jobs, and that energy supply, here in the United States."

Earlier this month, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both of Tennessee, voted against versions of the payroll tax cut extension. Neither mentioned Keystone in their statements.

Corker in particular scorned what he saw as a temporary political fix, saying "it's not the way to govern a country that has the huge economic, spending and deficit issues we have right now."

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dfclapp said...

A huge earmark for a wholly separate project attached to a bill they claim to support has no praiseworthy aspect at all. It is especially an egregious waste of legislative time when the stated purpose of the bill is being held hostage to this controversial add-on. If this pipeline has wide support, put it in a separate bill. It does not help pay for the payroll tax cut.

December 15, 2011 at 6:06 a.m.
EaTn said...

First of all this payroll tax reduction is a threat to the future of the Social Security system. With half of Americans from the recent census now classified as poor, SS is the only hope for these folks to have any retirement. Second, the GOP is totally opposed to the tax cut being partially paid for by a decrease of the Bush wealthy tax breaks. If the poor voters don't get the picture yet, the wealthy will continue to grow while the poor sinks further into poverty.

December 15, 2011 at 7:12 a.m.

Then pass the payroll tax cut extension and only the payroll tax cut extension. THEN I will believe you support it.

Anything else is more of the same special interest garbage the "local trio" is famous for supporting.

December 15, 2011 at 7:39 a.m.
chattyjill said...

I would like to know why Graves speaks as if Canada doesn't have a say in the pipeline. It's their oil. Maybe they're not going to let the US or Canada come in and have any of it.

This is a perfect example of how pro-business conservatives are willing to hold working class folks hostage over an oil pipeline - a pipeline that will only benefit corporations that already make billions. Also, the building of the pipeline only offers temporary jobs. Once it's built, people will be laid off.

December 15, 2011 at 12:37 p.m.
tipper said...

I bet this idea would fly. Let's agree to forego our 2% tax break only on the condition that the Bush-era tax cuts get rolled back. No bill riders. No earmarks. No quid pro quo. The country would save billions! There. Simple.

December 15, 2011 at 3:19 p.m.

Oh, and the ridiculous argument about the pipeline running to Vancouver then the oil going to China....guess what, the oil is going to China anyway if the pipeline runs to the's all about the big oil players who will benefit from the pipeline running to the gulf....if you don't believe it, look at the expansion going on in the Panama Canal....and China is the biggest buyer in either scenario....really folks, the "local trio" is as shameless and paid for as the rest of them.

December 15, 2011 at 4:21 p.m.
01centare said...

chattyjill said... I would like to know why Graves speaks as if Canada doesn't have a say in the pipeline.

They don't

Maybe they're not going to let the US come in and have any of it.

Then America will just have to do to Canada what they did to Iraq? They'll come around.

December 15, 2011 at 5:30 p.m.
ceeweed said...

Finishing the Keystone XL pipeline sounds like hard, dirty work, you know, the kind of work that Americans won't do. I'm sure the contractors will want to do this job on the cheap. Let's see, where oh where can they go to find this cheap labor? The House bill is not about providing Americans with jobs. Federal and state governments award contracts everyday to contractors who use "cheap" labor. Why should this pipeline be any different?...Screw all these politicians, on both sides of the aisle, who thinks Americans are a bunch of mindless dupes.

December 15, 2011 at 8:47 p.m.
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