U.S. Rep. Diane Black holds a press conference to discuss a budget proposal Dec. 7 in Washington, D.C., following morning committee meetings. (Photo submitted)
The U.S. House voted in favor Tuesday of extending the 4.2 percent payroll tax cuts as part of a larger measure that authorizes the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
“Today, the House held the line on multiple areas while forcing the issue of jobs to the forefront,” said Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) in a press release. “We helped our economy in the best way (we) can: We got Washington, D.C., out of the way by lifting the Environmental Protection Agency’s job-crushing boiler regulation and preventing further delay of the job creating, energy-rich Keystone XL pipeline.”
The payroll tax extensions have been bogged down in Congress for weeks in partisan gridlock. Several Republican representatives tried to block Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) from putting the measure to the floor, arguing more funds should not be steered away from Social Security.
Although the bill passed, many Republicans expressed increasing concern over the financial solvency of Social Security, which is funded by payroll taxes.
“However, we cannot lose sight of the end goal,” Black said. “Congress must work to make Social Security stronger and sustainable, instead of seeking short-term gratification at the expense of the program.”
With the unemployment rate still hovering at 9 percent, the amount of people paying into the Social Security fund through paychecks remains below normal levels – meaning the extension further reduces the amount of available funds.
“Facts are stubborn things, and right now the real unemployment rate in this country would be 11 percent if people had not simply stopped looking for work,” Black said. “The past three years have seen unprecedented government expansion under the guise of job creation, and yet Americans today are still struggling.”
She added the White House and U.S. Senate should do more to work with Republican representatives to address the ongoing unemployment problem.
However, President Barack Obama strongly advocated for the extension, citing if the payroll tax credits ended, the average middle-class family would see nearly a $1,000 tax hike next year.
Boehner, who did not want Republicans to be blamed for a tax hike, was eventually able to coax members of his own party to pass the measure, including Black. After the proposal passed, however, several Republican representatives touted the bill’s passage.
“Most importantly, we did not raise taxes on middle class American families,” Black said. “We substantially reformed unemployment insurance in order to get people back to work, and we took steps to help small business grow in the stagnant Obama economy.”
Black said in addition to Social Security, other federal programs should also be reformed and reevaluated.
“We need to permanently fix Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors and not at the continued expense of our rural providers,” she said. “And this Congress needs to be about the real, lasting solutions that will get our economy and our country back on track.”