Obama issues veto threat of payroll tax bill, but no mention of pipeline
The White House on Tuesday issued a formal veto threat of the House bill to extend the payroll tax cut, objecting to the way House Republicans chose to pay for the $180 billion legislation.
President Obama has previously threatened to veto the House version of the bill because it would streamline the decision-making process on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. However, in its veto threat today, the White House made no mention of the pipeline.
Instead, the White House said, the House bill "breaks the bipartisan agreement on spending cuts that was reached just a few months ago and would inevitably lead to pressure to cut investments in areas like education and clean energy. Furthermore, [the legislation] seeks to put the burden of paying for the bill on working families, while giving a free pass to the wealthiest and to big corporations by protecting their loopholes and subsidies."
The House is voting today on the legislation, which would extend the payroll tax cut for 160 million workers for another year. It would also extend long-term unemployment benefits but with reforms that Democrats have protested. Additionally, it would prevent a cut in Medicare payments to doctors.
Democrats have proposed paying for the tax cut extension by raising taxes on Americans earning more than $1 million a year.
The House Republican bill, by contrast, would extend the current federal worker pay freeze one more year, require federal workers to contribute more to their pensions, and charge higher insurance rates for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages. It would also prevent millionaires from collecting unemployment benefits or food stamps and increase Medicare Part B and D premiums for high income earners.
In order to prevent illegal immigrants from getting the child tax credit, the bill would require individuals to provide a Social Security number for the credit. To pay for Medicare payments for doctors, the bill eliminates some of the health care subsidies enacted in Mr. Obama's health care overhaul.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, pointed out that the Washington Post gave the White House "three Pinocchios" for charging the House bill would cut spending for things like education.
"In terms of governing, this amounts to legislative malpractice," Steel said in a statement.
He added that after the House passes the bill, it will be up to the Democratic-led Senate to act. "The Senate can take up our bill and amend it, or they can pass their own bill," Steel said. "But they can't continue to shirk their responsibility to govern. America can't wait."
White House spokesperson Jay Carney said today that the White House stands by its assertion that if lawmakers are to meet the reduced spending levels they agreed to earlier this year, using a federal pay freeze to pay for the extension of the payroll tax cut would lead to cuts in other things like education.
"There is nowhere else to go but programs like education, programs like energy, those kinds of programs that serve the very middle-class and working Americans you're supposed to be helping with the payroll tax cut," he said.
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