Opinion: Noem Should Follow Thune’s Lead on Payroll Tax Cut

I’m going on record to thank Senator John Thune.

After weeks of deliberation, Senate Republicans including Senator John Thune joined Senate Democrats including Senator Tim Johnson to pass legislation halting a $1000 tax hike on every working family in South Dakota. They worked together to stop one of the largest tax hikes on working families in recent history.

But this Tuesday, December 20, 2011, Congresswoman Kristi Noem, together with House Republicans, rejected the bipartisan Senate effort to protect families from a $1000 tax increase.

What’s at stake here is the preservation of the bipartisan payroll tax cut that Senate Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass overwhelmingly in the face of these tough economic times. The importance of the payroll tax cut cannot be overestimated. Independent economists estimate that failure to extend the payroll tax cut would cost one million jobs and trigger another economic recession.

So why are House Republicans holding up this must-pass legislation that prevents a $1000 tax hike on every working family in South Dakota? Speaker Boehner went so far as to call the Senate’s bill a “good deal” and a “victory” – and it was, with a plurality of Senate Republicans supporting it. But when he couldn’t sell it to Republican hardliners like Kristi Noem, he changed his mind, risking a tax hike to 500,000 working South Dakotans – a $1,000 increase for the typical working family.

Noem says that workers deserve a longer payroll tax cut extension. But the only way she and her Republican colleagues would support a longer-term deal was if Democrats conceded to dozens of controversial demands.

The fact is, Congress can come to a long-term agreement extending the payroll tax cut, but they need more time to find a compromise suitable to everyone. Senate Republicans and Democrats forged a short-term bipartisan payroll tax cut compromise that incorporated many of the provisions both parties in Congress could agree on. 89 Senators voted for that plan to prevent an imminent tax hike on working families. And then, Congresswoman Kristi Noem rejected it.

It’s perplexing that Congresswoman Noem would choose this opportunity to oppose tax relief for working families. She fought hard to protect billions in tax breaks for Big Oil. She fought hard to defend tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. But now, she won’t even consider a tax cut for working families without bigger concessions from Democrats on even more controversial measures.

Congresswoman Kristi Noem and House Republicans are playing politics with South Dakota pocket books. With Noem’s vote against the bipartisan payroll tax cut compromise that passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, it appears that the only tax breaks Noem will pass without condition are tax breaks for Big Oil and millionaires.

The clock is ticking. Timing is running out to protect working families from a huge tax hike on January 1, 2011. It’s time Noem and House Republicans follow Senator Thune’s and Senator Johnson’s leadership and pass the bipartisan senate payroll tax cut compromise. Working families cannot afford to become the casualties of House Republican hostage-taking for narrow ideological gain.

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