Van Hollen on MSNBC: Payroll tax cut extension is ‘a fight between the Republican right and the Republican far right’

Dec 21, 2011 Issues:

Washington, DC – Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, today appeared on MSNBC to discuss to discuss House Republican obstruction of an extension of the payroll tax cut. Video of the interview is available here and the transcript is below.

THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC:  We want to go now to one of the lawmakers make working to pass the tax cut extension, Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen. You’ve heard what Speaker Boehner and Eric Cantor have to say. You and Congressman Steny Hoyer just spoke in the last hour, demanding that the House take a vote on the bill to pass the Senate. Both sides, as Kelly pointed out, really want this so badly and Republicans refuse to bend on it. Why not settle this in conference? 

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Thomas, let’s just remember what both sides are in this case. You have a fight going on between the Republican right and the Republican far right. Those are the two sides that are fighting here because we have a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate – 89 out of 100 Senators voted for it; 80 percent of the Republican Senators supported it. You know that Republican Senators are calling upon Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans to take up that bipartisan compromise. So the two sides here are not Republicans and Democrats, they’re everybody on the one hand who wants to extend the payroll tax cut come January 1st, and the House Republicans that have hijacked Speaker Boehner’s speakership, the Tea Party. That’s where the fight is right now. So the President’s absolutely right to say the way to get this done is to take up the bipartisan compromise bill and make sure payroll taxes don’t go up on January 1st, and use that time to make sure we get a year-long payroll tax cut extension.

ROBERTS: Congressman, we heard from Eric Cantor saying he doesn’t understand why the President isn’t getting involved more with this. Why would Eric Cantor want the President to get more involved with this? Does the Congress need micro management from the President over this issue? 

VAN HOLLEN: We don’t need micro management from the President at all. In fact, Steny Hoyer and I were on the floor of the House this morning looking around – I didn’t see Speaker Boehner, I didn’t see Eric Cantor. The floor of the House is where we transact business. What happened is they came in, they said the morning prayer, we did the Pledge of Allegiance, and then they gaveled us to a close before Congressman Hoyer and I could offer a proposal to take up the bipartisan Senate bill. We could have this on the President’s desk this evening and make sure that 160 million Americans don’t face a payroll tax increase come January. We could make sure that those folks who are on unemployment can make sure that they can continue to put food on the table and pay the rent. And we can make sure that doctors who care for Medicare patients will continue to be fully reimbursed. We can do all that today. That’s why Congressman Hoyer and I went to the floor of the House – and I know the Speaker was in the building somewhere – but he was not in the place where we transact the people’s business, which is the floor of the House of Representatives. 

ROBERTS: Congressman, the right is saying that the House has already done this work, that they sent something on to the Senate that the Senate then rejected. The Senate bill would only buy two months but everyone is saying and they really want 12 months. What’s really rolled up into this bill that people can’t get behind?

VAN HOLLEN: Thomas, let’s remember that the House Republican leadership originally didn’t want any payroll tax cut whether it was for two months, three months or for a year. They then changed their position. We have always wanted a yearlong payroll tax cut. We proposed to pay for that by asking people who have done very well, people who earn more than a million dollars a year, to pay a surcharge on the amount of their income in excess of a million dollars. The Republicans said no. They’re out there vigorously defending tax breaks for the very wealthy. They’re out there defending corporate tax breaks. I wish they would as vigorously protect this tax cut for 160 million Americans. They can do that by coming together. My point is that we wanted a yearlong extension. They rejected that proposal. Instead they said we need to pay for it by raising Medicare premiums on seniors; they wanted to cut the amount of unemployment compensation for people who are out of work through no fault of their own. That’s why we didn’t get the one-year extension. That’s why the Senate Republicans – I want to stress, Senate Republicans blocked the House Republicans’ bill from coming up for a vote in the Senate because they knew it was a nonstarter. They got together – Republicans and Democrats – to make sure the payroll tax cuts were extended in the new year. That’s what they did in the Senate. We didn’t even get a vote. We were not even allowed a vote up or down on that Senate compromise bill in the House because the Republican leadership here knew that the result would probably be the same, that we’d actually get a bipartisan bill through the House. They didn’t want a bipartisan bill. Again, let’s remember this is now a battle not between Republicans and Democrats, this is between conservative Republicans and far right Republicans and the casualty, unfortunately is going to be the American people, jobs, and the economy.

ROBERTS: Congressman Chris Van Hollen. Sir, it’s nice to have you on this morning. We appreciate your time, and we are going to let you get back to work.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you, Thomas.