Tea Party Power Resurfaces in Budget Battle

Tuesday, 20 Dec 2011 01:26 PM

By Martin Gould

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House tea party members were receiving credit on Tuesday for confounding Democratic plans for a patchwork two-month extension to the payroll tax holiday.

And even though many realized that their stance may not be popular, they are convinced that it is the right thing to do to prevent chaos among businesses nationwide.

Some want the break, which would save the average family between $1,000 and $1,500 a year in taxes, scrapped altogether, while most believe that, if there is a break, it has to last for at least a year.

Allen West, Tea Party, budget battle
Rep. Allen West: “We’re going to do the right thing for the American people." (AP Photo)
“The two-month extension is just totally unacceptable,” Florida Rep. Allen West told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News.

West quoted from the National Payroll Reporting Consortium, which said it would “create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees.”

Democrats were furious with the House Republicans’ principled stand — especially after getting GOP members in the Senate to go along with their stopgap measure.

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer even singled out West and Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh during an interview with MSNBC, for what he called “a tea party revolt.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California was furious, saying, “It’s just the ridiculous tea party Republicans who are holding up this tax cut for the American people and jeopardizing economic growth.”

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, called the Republicans’ stance  “extremism at its worst.”

But West insisted that the tea party members would hold their ground against Democratic attacks because it is good for the country. “We’re going to do the right thing for the American people,” he said. “We have to instill confidence and certainty for our business creators, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.”

West described the Senate’s two-month extension, which passed 89-10 on Saturday, as “a gimmick” that he said is not paid for. “We are not going to rest until it’s over,” he pledged.

“The liberal Democrats are very effective in trying to look for someone to blame for their failures. And what you see happening right now is that the president and Harry Reid and I guess Nancy Pelosi are playing political chicken with the American people who are suffering under these failed economic policies.”

New York Rep. Michael Grimm told MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts that the Senate action was just “business as usual” which is not acceptable to House Republicans.

“Everyone across this country knows that two months is not enough to be effective. We passed a bipartisan bill in the House that said one year. Why couldn’t the Senate accept that?

“Most people in business are going to tell you one of the biggest problems that we have in America is a lack of certainty. One year brings a little certainty to the marketplace. Why are we punting the ball again?”

The two-month extension was negotiated by Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The idea was to buy time for more talks.

But the scheme fell to pieces when it reached the House. Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida attacked the extension during an impassioned speech in the House Rules Committee on Monday. He said it would add 14 or 15 hours of extra paperwork for every small business in the country because the deal doesn’t even last a full quarter.

“What you are doing to small businesses in this Senate amendment is wrong,” said Webster, a third-generation businessman from Orlando. “You are hurting them desperately.

“Small businesses don’t have that kind of time to fill out federal forms because Congress fails to take into consideration what they do,” he said.

Republican leaders in the House appeared surprised by the size and strength of opposition from conservatives. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who had supported the deal over the weekend, changed his mind and said it was time for the administration and Congress to “stop kicking the can down the road," and come to a deal on tax breaks, extended unemployment benefits and Medicare payments to doctors.

House Republicans have blasted the Senate saying members were too keen to get a deal signed so they could get out of Washington and go home for the holidays. Immediately after signing off on the deal, the Senate went into recess.

Boehner said he agreed with President Barack Obama that the deal must be worked out by the two Houses of Congress before the end of the year, even if that means recalling senators to the nation’s capital. “The president said we shouldn’t be going on vacation until we get our work done. I agree with him,” he told USA Today. “We can get this accomplished and we should.”

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