Every single Bay Area member of Congress, except one, voted against the compromise tax cuts and unemployment extension legislation passed by the House of Representatives just before midnight Thursday.
Only Jerry McNerney, the Pleasanton Democrat who narrowly avoided defeat in November, supported the $858 billion bill negotiated chiefly between President Barack Obama and the Republicans.
“The economy is struggling and any shock or uncertainty will almost certainly cost jobs,” McNerney said via email. “Moreover, it is absolutely essential to extend unemployment benefits for the families put out of work by the recession. I am also proud of some of the renewable energy provisions. On the whole I believe this bill will help the economy recover.”
McNerney’s vote is consistent. In early December, McNerney was one of 20 House Democrats nationwide who sided with Republicans in favor of extending Bush-era tax cuts to everyone and not just the middle class. The bill failed.
Politically, McNerney’s stance makes sense. Thanks to the 11th District’s jurisdictional strategy of the Altamont Pass, McNerney has one foot in the Central Valley and another in the Bay Area. Unlike his Bay Area colleagues, who handily won re-election their safe Democratic seats, McNerney is in the most competitive district in California and among the most competitive in the nation.
Rep. George Miller, D-Pleasanton, in a phone conversation from Washington, D.C., said he opposed the bill on a several fronts. One, he said, it hiked the already sky-high federal deficit through tax breaks for the nation’s wealthiest residents that will yield no national economic benefit.
And second, Miller said, when the one-year, 2 percentage point reduction in the Social Security wage tax, expires at the end of 2011, Congress will come under tremendous public pressure to extend it.
“If Congress doesn’t extend it, we’ll be accused to increasing taxes on working families,” Miller said. “But at that point, if you extend the reduction, it will begin to undermine Social Security and fuel talk about privatization.”
Here’s a run down of what East Bay members of Congress had to say about their votes on the bill:
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove: “Public policy is about choices, and there were better choices than this bill. I fought for a bill that would have worked for the American people. Our alternative proposal called for a $250 rebate for seniors. Instead of draining the Social Security trust fund, it called for a reduction in the income tax rate for working and middle class Americans. And instead of borrowing from China and our children to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, we offered a compromise that would have made sure every American earning up to $1,000,000 would not see a tax increase over the next two years. With the money saved, we would have invested in infrastructure and paid down the deficit. This plan would have created hundreds of thousands of jobs and been more fiscally responsible.”
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont: “Santa Claus is arriving early for a handful of wealthy individuals and industries this year. Wall Street should be throwing a parade today. They can certainly afford one after the President failed to uphold one of his signature campaign promises of letting tax breaks for the rich expire as planned.”
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez: “The bill was going to pass. I did not pretend otherwise. But at some point, you have to say no. If we increase the deficit, is it really worth it? For many things contained in this bill, like unemployment extension, the answer is yes. But to cut taxes for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans and change the estate tax, my answer is no.”
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: “We should let the Bush tax breaks for the rich expire. Period. They are a big part of the current deficit in the first place. Extending them for another two years digs us deeper into this deficit hole – and we know who will end up paying for it. It won’t be the rich – it will be the poor, low income communities, and communities of color, who lack well paid lobbyists to look out for their interests on Capitol Hill.”
Read through for Miller’s op-ed piece on the subject.