As much as we’ve supported an extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, we can understand House Republicans rejecting the Senate compromise that would have accomplished this for a measly two months. Members of both parties have been increasingly too willing to “kick the can down the road” rather than budge on their positions, and delaying the day of reckoning yet another two months probably would have done little to ease the gridlock.
However, waiting until February or later to extend the small tax cut — which lawmakers from both parties say they support — is still a bad idea if for no other reason than the burden it will create on employers, who will have to switch their withholding schedules by Jan. 1, then back again when the deal finally gets done.
Of course, not extending the tax cut will reduce the take-home pay of workers at a time the economy is still struggling. The effective tax hike — felt most by middle-class workers — certainly won’t do the recovery any good.
Senate leaders felt a short-term extension was the best they could do, and if they were right it was only because of Republican intransigence in both chambers: Unwilling to accept a straight-up vote on the Democrats’ basic bill, they mischievously insisted on attaching a slew of unrelated — and controversial — riders that would affect the economy, the poor, the environment, etc.
House Republicans who rejected the Senate’s stop-gap measure weren’t any more supportive of the Democrats’ approach; they simply wanted to force the issue now rather than in two months. And with senators beating it out of town for a month’s vacation after essentially throwing in the towel on negotiations, there seems little chance of a resolution before year’s end. Shameful.