Van Hollen on Bloomberg: ‘Speaker Boehner is allowing the Tea Party wing of his caucus to sabotage a bipartisan agreement’ on payroll tax cut extension
Washington, DC – Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, today appeared on Bloomberg Television to discuss Democrats’ efforts to extend the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans before it expires at the end of this year. Video of the interview is available here and the transcript is below.
PETER COOK, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Good afternoon, Mark. I am here with Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland. The point man for Democrats here on taxing and spending issues. Thank you for your time, as always, we appreciate it. Your reaction when you heard that Speaker Boehner and the Republicans were going to challenge to this compromise worked out in the Senate?
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: I was absolutely floored, because there had been an ongoing conversation between Speaker Boehner and Republican leader Mitch McConnell. We finally got a bipartisan compromise in the Senate, a majority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats. It was pretty clear Speaker Boehner thought this was something that could come right through the House very quickly, making sure got the payroll tax cut in place, and now he has obviously reversed himself. This is part of a pattern that we are seeing where Speaker Boehner allows the Tea Party wing of his caucus to sabotage these bipartisan agreements.
COOK: Now I listened to the news conference this morning that he had. His message is: “Listen, a 12 month extension – that’s what the President wants, that’s what Democrats have been talking about the entire time.” Why not just sit down and work to get the 12-month extension?
VAN HOLLEN: We tried to get a 12 month extension and we had a way to pay for it, too. We said that people who earn more than a million dollars a year have to pay a surcharge. They would be paying less than they were during the Clinton Administration, when the economy was booming, and that would allow us to give payroll tax relief to 160 million Americans and make sure that it was done in a deficit-neutral way. They said no to that. And so then you’ve got this back-and-forth trying to make sure that at least in the short-term people did not see their payroll taxes going up. Unfortunately, that is very much in jeopardy right now. I only see one way out of this that leads to a payroll tax cut beginning January 1st, and that is for the Speaker to bring that bill up on the floor of the House this evening and to make sure that enough Republicans joined with Democrats to get it done
COOK: Do you think there is any possibility, given what he said about his opposition to it and the opposition of other House Republicans, that there could be a small group of Republicans joined by Democrats and you could get the votes tonight to pass this two-month compromise?
VAN HOLLEN: I think there is a chance. I think that is the only way we are going to make sure that a payroll tax cut happens beginning January 1st. And that’s the way it should be. After all, this was a bipartisan compromise in the Senate. This has things in it that Democrats do not like and it has things in it that Republicans in the Senate do not like but they decided, for the good of the country, to come together. And now what you have in the House is the Tea Party Republicans pulling the rug out from under the Speaker and the Speaker really needs to lead now. This is his opportunity to say, “Come on guys, we need to get together for the good of the country,” and not allow the loudest group within his caucus, and the most far-right extreme group in his caucus, to sabotage the payroll tax cut.
COOK: You know it is Republicans that are already standing up here saying, “This is the Democrats playing politics.” This is an issue where you all, like the President, get to beat up on Republicans for the next two months. And that is why it’s a deal that they cannot accept – that you all would prefer this issue rather than a compromise.
VAN HOLLEN: Really? Was Mitch McConnell playing politics? Was the Senate Republican leader playing politics? Were the majority of Republicans in the Senate playing politics? You now have, as we are here, Senate Republicans – Senator Lugar, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, calling upon Speaker Boehner and House Republicans to do the right thing. Again, a compromise by its nature has some things that nobody likes and has some things that people know we need to get done. Let’s get it done.
COOK: Should we take Senator Reid at his word, the Majority Leader, that unless the Republicans are willing to accept this two-month compromise that he would not even bring Senate Democrats back to negotiate?
VAN HOLLEN: He has already negotiated an extension. That is what happened in the Senate. That is why a majority of Republicans supported it. Right now you’ve got a situation where the Speaker has got to step up to the plate, he’s got to demonstrate leadership. We all know that he had essentially signed off on this; he said good things about it; there had even been an expectation among some of the House Republican leadership that they would take it up on a voice vote and would not even have to ask their people to come back and vote. That is how sure they were that this would be something that could pass the House. Now you’ve got the opposite happening. It is really a moment for the Speaker to say, “Let’s do the right thing for the good of the country. The Senate Republicans and Democrats did it. Let’s do it in the House.”
COOK: There are some economists out there who are debating what impact this would have on the U.S. economy if at this particular moment it were not extended. Maybe it is not that big of an impact. What is your own sense? Do you speak to economists that give you advice on what the true impact would be if this went away?
VAN HOLLEN: I know the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that it will mean there will be jobs lost. Other economists like Mark Zandi, who advised Senator McCain in the last presidential election, says it could mean a million jobs. So look, there’s a wide range of estimates but all of them – all of them – say jobs will be lost if we don’t extend the payroll tax cut. It is kind of common sense, right? People have fewer dollars in their pockets, that means they are able to purchase less goods and services, that means small businesses and other businesses will be able to sell less goods and services and they will hire less people. I mean it is pretty straightforward how this will work and I really hope that the Republicans in the House will not leave town without taking up and passing the Senate bipartisan compromise. If they don’t, if they allow that to happen, it will mean jobs lost – if they allow the payroll tax cut to go away.
COOK: Alright, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, it could be a late night for you this evening, some votes this evening on this particular piece of legislation. The latest from here on the hill.