Moves by Republican House leaders to extend the payroll tax holiday without finding ways to pay for it was hailed as an “extremely wise” strategy on Monday by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.
And conservative House members who are starting to make noises in opposition to the move just did not understand it, he added.
“Opposing leadership is only heroic if the leadership is wrong,” Norquist said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax. “This is not the first time the leadership has had a coherent strategy and the backbenchers have missed what they were doing and attributed bad motives to something.”
House Speaker John Boehner and his two top lieutenants, majority leader Eric Cantor and whip Kevin McCarthy announced on Monday that they were ready to accept a 10-month extension of the payroll tax break without offsetting spending cuts.
The trio blamed Democrats for not compromising in House/Senate conference meetings. “Democrats’ refusal to agree to any spending cuts in the conference committee has made it necessary for us to prepare this fallback option to protect small business job creators and ensure taxes don’t go up on middle class workers.”
“This is not our first choice,” the three leaders added in a statement. “Our goal is to reach a responsible agreement in conference, but in the face of the Democrats’ stonewalling and obstructionism, we are prepared to act to protect small businesses and our economy from the consequences of Washington Democrats’ political games.”
Immediately Rep. Steve King of Iowa attacked the move during an exclusive Newsmax interview. “I don’t know what principles are left,” he said.
“I don’t think there will be a revolt within the party,” King predicted. “We have been dragged so far down the road already. Unfortunately a few of us making a stand does not a coalition make.”
But Norquist said opponents to the plan were missing the point. “Some people might be opposed to it or confused by it,” he said. “Any upset is temporary.”
He said the move pulled the rug from under the Democrats’ whom, he said, planned to paint Republicans as being against the tax cut in the upcoming election.
“In a matter of days or weeks, certainly months and months before the next election, people will understand that it’s not that the Republicans caved,” said Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform.
“They took off the table the Democrats’ argument that the Republicans are secretly against cutting this tax.
“Now they can separately have the debate about how we pay for it. By doing that they speed up the process of coming up with a way to pay for it, because the Democrats are spending all this time lying and saying the Republicans don’t want to cut the tax.
“We want the argument to be, ‘We want to cut spending, they want to raise taxes, that’s the difference between the two parties.’ That is what the Democrats don’t want to talk about.”
He said the move throws the Democrats’ plan “right back in their face, leaving them asking, ‘Now what?’”
Republican House members are due to discuss the plan on Tuesday in a 6 p.m. conference meeting. King said that he planned to vote against the leadership’s plan, although he admitted that might change. “We have to look at the bigger political picture,” he said.
The move from the House leadership took Republicans in Washington by surprise. Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, one of the Senate members on the conference committee was caught off guard in the middle of a press conference opposing President Barack Obama’s budget when he was told about it.
"We're continuing to look for ways to pay for all parts of this in their blocks in paying for every component of the things I think we need to do," Barrasso said. He also said he supports offsets that House Republicans have proposed like freezing federal worker pay.
Republicans called for a one-year extension of the tax holiday back in December, but only if it could be paid for with cuts in spending. Eventually they agreed reluctantly to a compromise of a two-month extension without offsets while representatives from the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House met to iron out a way forward. That extension is due to run out on Feb. 29.
Without action to extend the holiday, 160 million Americans earning $50,000 a year would lose about $20 a week from their pay packets. Those on $100,000 would find they were taking home $2,000 a year less.
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