How they voted on the payroll tax cut extension

The Bay Area’s House delegation wasn’t in lockstep on today’s 293-132 vote approving a compromise to extend the payroll tax cut: Most felt it was a vital move, but a few said it’s just not good enough.

Among those voting for the bill were Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. Here’s what Miller said:

“Passage of this bill is critical for working families in our country; people who will get to keep on average an extra $1,000 in their paycheck this year, the unemployed who will continue to get insurance benefits, and for Medicare patients who will continue to see the doctor of their choice. Republicans opposed extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits but in the end they succumbed to public pressure. But this is not a perfect bill. Democrats fought for a small increase in taxes on people who earn more than $1 million per year to help pay for the cost of this bill. The Republicans refused – once again – to ask people who earn more than one million dollars a year to shoulder any burden in our struggling economy. Democrats will continue to fight for a fair and balanced solution to our economic problems, but today’s bill is an important victory for working families, the middle class, and seniors. We’ve got a lot of work to do to rebuild the economy so everyone benefits and this bill keeps us on that path.”

Honda seemed more conflicted:

honda.jpg“Today, I was faced with one of the more difficult votes in my Congressional career. While our economy is fragile, and Congress must use every tool within our arsenal to keep the recovery on the right track, we are faced with the realities of a split Congress and a Republican controlled House of Representatives. Months ago, Democrats put forth a proposal to extend the payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance, and SGR for the entire year by simply asking the wealthiest among us to pay a fraction more. Republicans, bent on ideological extremism, did not allow this bill to go through. That is how we got to today’s vote.

“The compromise deal before me today was supported by 9 Democrats and 8 Republicans of the conference committee. In order to move forward, each party had to accept provisions that we oppose. I was particularly disappointed to see offsets that imposed additional costs on federal employees and curtailed health care access. A Democratically-controlled Congress would have not relied on services and benefits for lower and middle class Americans to move our economy forward. Make no mistake; these are the aims of Republicans in Congress, and they were placed in the conference report because of a Tea Party agenda; one that continues to finance short-term solutions by cutting long-term programs that critically affect the future of our nation. I remain committed to fighting for all Americans, both private and public sector employees. I remain committed to affordable health care, for families of all economic backgrounds. And I remain committed to strong economic recovery.

“Today’s vote puts $1,000 in the pockets of 160 million American workers, extends unemployment benefits for millions of those that have lost their job through no fault of their own, and ensures that millions of seniors will have access to their doctor through Medicare. It will also finally authorize much needed spectrum auctions that will provide essential space to innovative Silicon Valley companies to create a new generation of technologies. Governing requires tough decisions, and on the whole, this tough decision required me to support this bipartisan deal, even when there were portions with which I vehemently disagreed.”

But Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; and Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, voted against the deal. Here’s what Lee said:

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)“Today, I voted against the conference report for H.R. 3630 because it reduces unemployment benefits, cuts preventative health care programs, and unfairly targets federal employees’ retirement. This bill was intended to provide relief to American families by allowing workers to keep more of their paychecks. This bill was intended to provide support to the unemployed by extending critical unemployment benefits. I have grave concerns that this deeply flawed and disappointing package of extensions does not do enough during these tough economic times. While I believe we must approve vital extensions of unemployment benefits, quickly extend the payroll tax holiday, and extend the Medicare SGR fix so that millions of seniors will continue to have access to their doctors, this proposal is a step in the wrong direction.

“In fact, this bill makes significant cuts to struggling families. Instead of scaling back unemployment benefits we need to be adding weeks to help people get by when there continues to be four workers in line for each job. Instead of a temporary fix to Medicare physician reimbursement we should have a permanent fix that fairly compensates doctors who care for our seniors. Instead of raiding the pensions of hard working federal employees we should be standing up for these workers. Instead of cutting preventive and healthcare programs we should be supporting them.

“We cannot cut our way to prosperity and recovery. We must make smart investments in education, infrastructure and in the American people to grow our economy and restore a pathway to opportunity, prosperity and economic mobility for our future generations. We can and should do better than this.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Barb Lee don’t speak fur me? Her statement is superficial and mildly dumb. She champions the functionally illiterate long-term jobless who couldn’t bag groceries if their lives were at stake, “hard-working federal ” employees (floor-sweepers) and Medicare -driven clinics where the imbecilic SGR (Sustainable Growth Rate) reimbursement system, linking fees to GDP, hasn’t worked to anybody’s benefit, least of all docs, since a wise Congress enacted it in 1997 without much ado. The Honorable Member for Ogawa Plaza Occupiers makes George Miller look like a statesman.

  • Elwood

    George Miller and Bobbie Lee are enough to gag a maggot.

  • John W.

    Re: Barbara Lee

    I probably would have voted for the deal reluctantly. However, the reasons she gave for voting AGAINST the bill were good reasons to vote FOR the bill. If I had been a congressman voting against the bill, it would have been for two reasons: the implications of the SS payroll tax cut and using a new revenue source (auctioning broadcast TV spectrum to mobile media providers) to pay for an unrelated activity (unemployment benefits). She didn’t mention either of those.