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Payroll Tax Cut Extension

Sen. Harry Reid

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Mr. President, I trust that the Acting President pro tempore and all of our staff, everyone in this great Capitol complex, had a safe and happy holiday. I hope everyone is well rested because we have a difficult work period ahead of us. We have much to do over the next few weeks with the Hanukkah and Christmas holiday quickly looming ahead.

This week we need to finish the work on the Defense authorization bill and even more. This month we will also handle a number of nominations and extend unemployment insurance for Americans still struggling to find work during these difficult times, and we have more appropriations work to do.

The continuing resolution to fund the government expires on December 16. We must not neglect the responsibility to continue our work to put Americans back to work. So we will take up additional pieces of President Obama's American Jobs Act.

This week we will introduce legislation that would give the economy a boost by putting money back in the pockets of middle-class workers and small businesses by extending and expanding the popular payroll tax cut. More than 120 million families took home an extra $120 billion this year thanks to this payroll tax cut we championed. The average family held on to more than $935 of their hard-earned dollars this year. We need to assure those families they can rely on that tax cut next year as well. This legislation does more than just protect the tax cuts Americans already count on; it deepens and expands that tax relief as well.

Next year, 120 million American families will keep an average of $1,500 because of this legislation. That means they will have more money to spend on essentials such as gas and food and buy things that will help spur economic growth in their communities.

Businesses will also benefit from this tax cut. Ninety-eight percent of American businesses will see their payroll taxes cut in half on their first $5 million of wages that they pay.

In Nevada, 50,000 businesses will benefit from this tax cut and many businesses will save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. So this legislation will help families and businesses while spurring hiring and giving the economy a boost. It will be fully paid for with the small 3.25-percent surtax on income over $1 million. So a person who makes $1 million a year won't pay an extra penny. Someone who makes $1.1 million--that is an extra $100,000--will pay $3,250 more than they would have originally.

At a time when many working families are still struggling, we cannot afford not to extend and expand this important payroll tax cut. So I was disappointed to hear from some of my Republican colleagues, specifically the junior Senator from Arizona, who have already come out in opposition to this tax cut. I think it is fair to say that all Republicans have not, but my friend from Arizona did. This is wrong.

Those who loudly claim to care about keeping taxes low, too often it seems they only care about keeping taxes low for the richest of the rich. The same Republicans who today oppose a payroll tax cut for hundreds of millions of businesses and families last week jettisoned the hopes of a large-scale deficit reduction deal in the supercommittee because they insisted on massive, permanent tax giveaways for the rich. Cutting taxes for the middle-class families and businesses should be an area where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground, as we have in the past.

The opposition by Republicans is because this tax cut has President Obama's fingerprints on it. It was his idea. Republicans will not support it even though they know it is good policy for American families and businesses. Let's hope that is not the case for all of my friends.

Let's examine the effects of their purely political opposition to a commonsense tax cut. If Republicans block passage of this legislation, they will take money out of the pockets of American families. That is clear. For a family making $50,000 a year, this proposal we talked about would not only preserve an existing $935 tax break, it would put an additional $565 a year in the family coffers. If the Republicans get their way, that family will actually see its tax increase by $1,000.

If Republicans block this legislation, 120 million American families and 98 percent of American businesses will not get the tax cut next year. Instead, 120 million families and millions of businesses will be hit with a tax increase. Those numbers are startling. They are shocking. But the potential impact on the larger economy is downright scary.

Economist Mark Zandi of Moody's said the economy will likely plunge back into a full-blown recession--erasing the economic progress we have made--if we don't extend that cut.

It is clear neither our fragile middle class nor our fragile economic recovery can afford the kind of setback a failure to extend and expand these would bring. Republicans say we cannot afford to raise these taxes. If they choose to oppose this payroll tax cut, we will know what they meant to say was: We cannot afford to raise taxes on the rich. In fact, more clearly, we cannot afford to raise taxes on the rich, but we are happy to raise taxes on the middle class.

Mr. President, please announce the business of the day.

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