SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 5, 2011

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

(Continued)

WASHINGTON — 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

SENATE

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.

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