By JOSELYN KING
WHEELING - Congress on Friday passed legislation extending payroll taxcuts through the end of 2012 - but not with the help of three local lawmakers.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas walk to the House floor on Capitol Hill of Friday for the final vote on the payroll tax cut extension. The bill cleared both houses of Congress.
Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., and Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, all cast "no" votes against the measure. Under the bill, workers will continue to receive a 2 percentage point increase in their paychecks, and people out of work for more than six months will keep jobless benefits averaging about $300 a week.
The measure passed the House by a vote of 293-192, and later cleared the Senate with a tally of 60-36. President Barack Obama was expected to sign the bill after returning from a West Coast fundraising swing.
Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson, both R-Ohio; and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., all supported the bill.
Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, voted in favor.
Manchin spoke on the Senate floor about the payroll tax cut extensions prior to Friday's vote.
"I want to make sure that hardworking families have more money in their pockets - but this temporary policy is the absolute wrong way to do it because it cripples Social Security," he said. "I know that going back home and saying we voted for tax cuts is popular, but this is not a tax cut - this is a Social Security cut. Plain and simple. And knowing that we add 10,000 new 65-year-olds a day, and knowing that last year Social Security paid out more than it took in - how does that make any sense?
"West Virginians sent me here to vote for changes for the next generation, not a feel-good program that will last only 10 months, jeopardize Social Security and put our country another $100 billion deeper in debt. What we need - and what I've pushed for - is meaningful, fair tax reform, something our families will know that they can count on and that won't jeopardize Social Security. This bill today does the opposite - and that is not a formula for success for this country."
McKinley said the bill will add $89 billion to the federal debt "since it is entirely unfunded." He cited figures compiled by Congressional Budget Office.
"This payroll tax holiday has been in effect for more than a year, and we don't have much to show for it," McKinley said. "It's not worth jeopardizing the Social Security Trust Fund again and putting $89 billion in more debt to implement an election year band-aid that doesn't work. Nearly 13 million Americans are currently looking for work and our unemployment rate lingers close to Great Depression levels. There is simply no evidence that proves a temporary extension will solve our economic misfortunes. Adding $89 billion to our nation's debt is simply unacceptable. Our children and grandchildren are depending on us to ease the massive burden of debt. We have spending problem in Washington, yet President Obama continues to make it worse. Further, we cannot continue to allow Washington to raid the Social Security Trust Fund for their political giveaways. It's wrong for our seniors and wrong for future retirees."
Portman also explained his opposition.
"I support extending the payroll tax cut, but had to oppose the conference report agreement because it didn't pay for the extension, " he said. "It weakens the Social Security trust fund, and adds $89 billion in deficits to Washington's already-growing national debt."
Capito and Rockefeller both expressed confidence that reductions in the Social Security payroll tax collections will be compensated for by increased contributions from the general fund.
According to Rockefeller, this bill will help 900,000 West Virginia workers avoid a tax hike starting on March 1, and save the average family more than $800 through the end of the year.
"Temporary benefits for people who are out of work would also be renewed," Rockefeller said. "And it fully protects Social Security as the Social Security Trust Funds will not lose one penny from this bill."
Capito said her initial concerns about the funding of Social Security "were alleviated" during talks this week.
"Instead of paying hundreds of dollars more in taxes, 160 million families can budget that money for necessities like gas and groceries," she said. "Three years ago this week, the president's failed 'stimulus' package was signed into law. Since then, unemployment has averaged 9.3 percent. Our economy is still struggling - we absolutely can't hit middle class families with a tax increase."