Tea party supporters in the House of Representatives have vowed to make a last-ditch stand in a bid to stave off the extension to the payroll tax holiday that their leaders have agreed to.
The 62-member block of conservative members believes Speaker John Boehner and other House Republican leaders have turned their back on a key policy point by allowing the deal, which will be voted on later this week.
They claim the deal will further deplete the Social Security trust fund.
“I had warned my Republican colleagues over a year ago not to do this in the first place, don’t go with this payroll tax cut,” tea party caucus chairwoman Rep. Michele Bachmann told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday.
“This year, it cut off $111 billion out of the Social Security Trust Fund. We continue to write checks to senior citizens, we have to,” she said. “But what that means is we have to go to the general treasury and write checks.
“When you go to the general treasury and open the door to that vault, only moths and feathers fly out,” Bachmann added. “There’s nothing in there – we’re broke.”
Other caucus members agreed with the Minnesota congresswoman. “Once we have given the Senate Democrats all they want, we’re not going to have a whole lot of leverage,” Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
“I wouldn’t say it is a cave-in,” added Gohmert. “But I can see why [others] might say that.
“Our leaders clearly believe we should put this controversy behind us and this will give us a chance to move forward,” added Gohmert. “But if we don’t have the leverage to force the Senate to adopt what we want, then we have no chance of getting our bills through there.
“It requires the leadership to use the leverage we have to get done what is needed for the good of America.”
Gohmert said he still has to see exactly what is in the bill before deciding whether to buck the leadership and vote against the proposal.
Despite the threat of revolt from conservatives, the bill to allow the extension is expected to sail through the House because both Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have signaled their support.
Republican members were given details of the bill in a closed-door meeting Tuesday. Gohmert told Newsmax, “I believe it is healthy to have disagreement – I would describe the discussion at the meeting as ‘healthy.’
“There are those of us who believe we had a very good bill before Christmas which would have extended the 2 percent cut for the entire 12 months. We had the Keystone XL pipeline — which would have created tens of thousands of jobs — included, and we had welfare reform which hasn’t been properly addressed since the 1990s.
“There are those of us who believe we should have gone back to that bill instead of sending out the wrong message.”
Even before the Republican conference meeting, some tea party caucus members were unhappy with the idea of extending the payroll holiday.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa told Newsmax, “I don’t know what principles are left.”
Others also voiced concern. “What I heard I don’t like,” Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia said as he left the Republican conference meeting.
Rep. Allen West of Florida told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, he would not support the bill “if we're going to do it on the backs of American homeowners.”
West added, “It's about time that we get pretty genuine with the American people and not give them some political gimmicks. Let's start doing the things that look out for our future, not just a short-term economic Band-Aid.”
But other tea party members sounded resigned to seeing the bill passed. Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida said after the meeting, “We've got to move on to another issue. I think that's what the mood is."
The tentative compromise would extend the current 2-percentage-point cut in the usual 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax deducted from workers' paychecks until the end of the year. That reduction, which saves $1,000 a year for families earning $50,000, would otherwise expire on March 1.
Other provisions include ensuring that doctors are spared from a sharp drop in the amount of money they get from Medicare payments and a cut in the length of time the jobless can claim unemployment benefits, which will fall from 99 weeks to 73 weeks.
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