, Salem, MA

December 5, 2011

Kerry, Brown split on payroll tax cut: Roll Call for week of Nov. 28, 2011

Voterama in Congress
Salem News

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- Here’s how members of the Massachusetts delegation in Congress voted on major issues the week of Nov. 28:


RULES FOR UNION ELECTIONS: Voting 235 for and 188 against, the House on Nov. 30 passed a Republican bill (HR 3094) to block a proposed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule to quicken the pace of union elections.

Now before the Senate, the bill targets a labor-relations rule that could take effect by year’s end. Under the rule, elections on whether to form into a collective-bargaining unit could be held as soon as ten days after the NLRB certifies the election petition. The bill would require a wait of at least 35 days to give employers more time to attempt to persuade workers to reject unionization, and it would give employers more say in determining which workers are eligible for the bargaining unit.

John Kline, R-Minn., called the rule “a draconian effort to stifle employer speech and ambush workers with a union election. Less debate, less information and less opposition -- that’s Big Labor’s approach to workers’ free choice, and it is being rapidly implemented by the activist NLRB.”

Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said: “Letting an employer deny and manipulate union elections is a blatant attempt to put the fox in charge of the henhouse. (The bill) is a direct attack on the ability of workers to bargain collectively to protect their rights. And we’ve seen (this year) that American citizens don’t like that so much.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.  

Voting yes: None

Voting no: John Olver, D-Amherst; Richard Neal, D-Springfield; James McGovern, D-Worcester; Barney Frank, D-Newton;  Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell; John Tierney, D-Salem; Edward Markey, D-Malden; Michael Capuano, D-Somerville; Stephen Lynch, D-Boston; William Keating,


Not voting:   None

REPEAL OF POST-WATERGATE LAW: Voting 235 for and 190 against, the House on Dec. 1 passed a Republican bill (HR 3463) to repeal the post-Watergate law under which taxpayers voluntarily divert $3 of their federal taxes to the public funding of presidential-election campaigns and nominating conventions.

The bill also would repeal the Election Assistance Commission, which Congress established in response to voter-registration and vote-counting fiascoes in Florida and other states in the 2000 Bush-Gore presidential race. The commission provides funding and best-practices guidance to help states and localities upgrade electoral procedures and voting equipment.

The ending of voluntary taxpayer funding of presidential campaigns is projected to raise Treasury receipts by $617 million over ten years.

The $3 taxpayer checkoff generates a fund for primary candidates who agree to curb spending and general-election candidates who refuse to accept private contributions except to cover certain in-house expenses. Additionally, next year’s Democratic and GOP nominating conventions already have agreed to accept $18 million each from the fund.

James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said public financing of presidential campaigns “was destroyed three years ago” when Democratic candidate Barack Obama “refused to be bound by its restrictions ... and raised huge and unlimited amounts of money.”

David Price, D-N.C., said the bill “would destroy one of the most successful examples of reform that followed the Watergate scandal. Dare we forget what that scandal was about? The Committee to Reelect the President, fueled by huge quantities of corporate cash, paying for criminal acts and otherwise subverting the American electoral system.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: None

Voting no: Olver, Neal, McGovern, Frank, Tsongas, Tierney, Markey, Capuano, Lynch, Keating

Not voting:   None


DEMOCRATS’ PAYROLL RATES: Voting 51 for and 49 against, the Senate on Dec. 1 failed to reach 60 votes for passing a Democratic bill (S 1917) to extend and expand this year’s temporary lowering of Social Security payroll taxes.

In 2011, employees are contributing 4.2 percent of their pay up to $106,800 to the Social Security Trust Fund -- down 2 percentage points from the standard 6.2 percent rate that will return Jan. 1 unless Congress renews the break. The Democratic bill would cut the Social Security tax on employees still further -- to 3.1 percent -- and expand the break to also cover the employers’ share of Social Security withholding. Thus both employees and employers next year would pay at 3.1 percent of payroll up to $106,800. Democrats would recover lost revenue by imposing a 3.25-percent tax on income over $1 million.

Patty Murray, D-Wash., said: “At a time when so many of our hard-working middle-class families continue to struggle in this very tough economy, this bill would cut their Social Security payroll tax in half, from 6.2 percent to 3.1 percent. That means a tax cut for 160 million workers in this country today.”

John Thune, R-S.D., said the Democrats’ added tax on millionaires would penalize “the very employers whom we are counting on to help jolt this economy back to life,” whereas the GOP bill (below) “avoids the gratuitous hit on job creators, and, even better, reduces the federal deficit by more than $111 billion.”

A yes vote was to pass the Democratic bill.

Voting yes: John Kerry, D  

Voting no: Scott Brown, R  

Not voting: None

GOP PAYROLL RATES: Voting 20 for and 78 against, the Senate on Dec. 1 defeated a Republican bill (S 1931) to renew for one year the existing law under which employees contribute 4.2 percent of their pay up to $106,800 to the Social Security Trust Fund. The plan also would raise Medicare premiums for millionaires and billionaires. Republicans would offset lost revenue and generate $111 billion in deficit reduction mainly by gradually cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent and freezing federal workers pay through 2015.

Dean Heller, R-Nev., said; “By asking millionaires and billionaires to pay higher premiums for government health care, my proposal asks the richest Americans to do more, just like my colleagues on the other side of the aisle ask that they should.”

Robert Casey, D-Pa., said the GOP bill “does not help small business. What we should be doing is cutting the payroll tax in half for employees and cutting it in half for employers so we can help small businesses. ... All (this bill) does is take the existing cut in the payroll tax and keep that in place.”

A yes vote was to pass the Republican bill.

Voting yes: Brown  

Voting no: None

Not voting: Kerry

2012 MILITARY BUDGET: Voting 93 for and seven against, the Senate on Dec. 1 sent to conference with the House a $662 billion military budget for fiscal 2012, including $117.2 billion for war in Afghanistan and Iraq, $52.5 billion for the military’s health care system and $10.3 billion for missile-defense programs. The bill (S 1867) raises military pay by 1.6 percent, imposes tougher economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and expands U.S. support of anti-narcotics efforts in South and Central America, Central Asia and West Africa. The bill authorizes $12.8 billion for training and equipping Afghan security forces, $400 million for infrastructure projects in Afghanistan and $508 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program that destroys nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union. Additionally, the bill caps personnel levels at 562,000 for the Army, 332,800 for the Air Force, 325,700 for the Navy and 202,100 for the Marine Corps.

The bill drew a presidential veto threat because it sets a presumption of indefinite military detention rather than civilian criminal prosecution of terrorist suspects (next issue).

Carl Levin, D-Mich., said America has “over 96,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the ground in Afghanistan, with 23,000 more remaining in Iraq. While there are issues on which we may disagree, we all know we must provide our troops with the support they need as long as they remain in harm’s way.”

Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said America’s military presence in Afghanistan should be ended sooner than the 2014 deadline set by President Obama. “Our citizens remind us that the United States has been at war in Afghanistan for over 10 years, the longest war in American history ... at a terrible price.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Brown, Kerry  

Voting no: None

Not voting: None

MILITARY CUSTODY, CIVIL LIBERTIES: Voting 38 for and 60 against, the Senate on Nov. 29 refused to strip the 2012 defense budget (S 1867, above) of a requirement that captured members of organizations such as al-Qaeda be held indefinitely in U.S. military custody rather than assigned to the America’s civilian criminal-justice system. Under this major shift in detention policy, even American terrorist suspects arrested in the U.S. could be denied access to U.S. civilian courts and rights of due process. However, presidents could waive the presumption of military custody under certain circumstances. Defenders said the language codifies but does not change existing U.S. policy.

Mark Udall, D-Colo., called it “an unprecedented threat to our constitutional liberties” to authorize “the indefinite military detention of American citizens who are suspected of involvement in terrorism -- even those captured ... in the United States....”

Carl Levin, D-Mich., said: “If it is determined that even an American citizen is a member of al-Qaeda, then you can apply the law of war, according to the Supreme Court. ...Yes, we are at war, and, yes, we should codify how we handle detention, and this is an effort to do that.”

A yes vote was to strip the bill of its military-custody presumption.

Voting yes: Kerry  

Voting no: Brown  

Not voting: None