Last night, President Obama unveiled his new jobs agenda, which includes an extension of the payroll tax holiday for workers and employers, as well as a temporary payroll tax reduction as an incentive for businesses to hire more people. As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other experts have found, payroll tax cuts are far more stimulative than many of the other tax cut proposals currently on the table.
Many Republicans are already voicing their opposition to the proposal. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), chair of the House Republican Policy Committee, spoke with NPR last night and revealed that his party’s opposition to the tax cut is rooted in class. The payroll tax cut, Price explained, is a “good nugget from a rhetorical standpoint, for the class warfare that [Obama] seems intent on fighting”:
SIEGEL: Well, let’s pick apart some of what he asked for today. Continuing the payroll tax holiday, both for employers and employees, Republicans on board with that possibly?
PRICE: Well, it’s a tax reduction in his eyes. In fact, it’s just a shift of the money to pay for Social Security. So, from a policy standpoint, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s a good nugget from a rhetorical standpoint, for the class warfare that he seems intent on fighting. But, you know, whether or not that survives, I don’t know. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from an economic standpoint because the money to pay Social Security recipients has to come from somewhere. If it’s not going to come from the payroll tax, then it’s going to come from the general fund. And so, then you’re just borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.
Obama’s plan to pay for the working class tax cuts is to end wasteful tax loopholes for corporations and wealthy investors. Price, who touts himself as a pro-growth tax cutter, is waging his own class warfare: protecting tax subsidies for billionaires to prevent substantive tax cuts for working families.
In the midst of debt negotiations, Republicans have gone to bat for their biggest fans: multinational corporations. Flatly refusing to eliminatewastefultax breaks for inordinately profitable companies, Republicans are adamant on protecting the privilege of the wealthy few. In defending this unpopularposition, House Republicans paint corporations as beleaguered job creators who are suffering under prohibitive tax rates.
In an interview with Newsmax on Saturday, House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) declared that the U.S. corporate tax rate is so draconian that businesses prefer to “go almost anywhere else.” He then proceeded to advocate for a territorial tax system, under which offshore profits of a U.S. corporation would be exempt from U.S. taxes. Price argued that exempting offshore profits would create a “huge jobs magnet” here:
PRICE: We have the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world which makes it so that, if you’re a job creator out there, there’s no incentive from a tax standpoint to put your business here in America. It’s better from a tax standpoint to go almost anywhere else…There’s something called repatriation or territorial tax which means that businesses that make a profit outside the united states but they’re domiciled here, they have a huge incentive not to bring that money back — repatriate that money — because of the tax rate here. And if we were to allow those taxes to come back at the rate at which they’re taxed in those other countries, then we would have a huge jobs magnet to this country.
However, according to a Citizens for Tax Justice report, not only would such a territorial tax system give companies greater incentive to profit-shift (disguise U.S. profits as foreign profits), but it would give corporations “a greater incentive to shift actual operations — and jobs — to other countries.” The function of a “job magnet,” presumably, is not to send jobs overseas.
Of course, the entire premise of this argument isn’t entirely factual in the first place. Unless, by “highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world,” Price means the U.S. has “the second lowest corporate taxes in the developed world.” While the U.S tax rate is high on paper, the ever-expanding number of corporate tax loopholes makes for a very low corporate tax rate across the board in the U.S. Thus, as a share of GDP, only Iceland’s corporate taxes rate lower.
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is denying reports that Republicans have abandoned efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, telling Newsmax.TV that House Republicans are still focused on developing GOP alternatives to reform and will introduce health care legislation “in the next couple of weeks”:
PRICE: Our replace process is moving forward, we’re having hearings at all sorts of different committee levels. [...] We’re working in our office right now on a new version of the Empower Patients First Act, which will get folks covered, solve the insurance challenges, and address the lawsuit abuse issues that we hope to introduce in the next couple of weeks.
HOST: Representative, well Politico says that six months later Republicans hardly mention it any more and there are nowhere close to replacing the law. Is that an inaccurate report?
PRICE: Well, I think that is an inaccurate report. I think all of the wind and enthusiasm is being sucked up by the deficit ceiling debate. No, we’re working diligently on the committee level…and we will continue to push for the kinds of appropriate reforms…we’ll continue to highlight it and look forward to putting in place patient-centered reforms.
Watch it starting around 4:00:
Price may soon re-introduce his replacement legislation, but as Jen Haberkorn reported in the Politico piece that Price is now describing as inaccurate, the leadership has relatively little appetite for re-opening the health care debate in the wake of the political debacle over Paul Ryan’s budget. And that conversation is even harder to have as Americans are already enjoying some of the most popular elements of reform — the very same provisions that many Republicans endorse and would keep in place.
Back in 2007, President George W. Bush’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “initiated a secret shopper program that would secretly monitor the practices of various health plans offering Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans” to ensure that payers were complying with CMS marketing guidelines. The program was so successful that “CMS decided to continue the secret shopping through the 2008 Open Enrollment period for Medicare Advantage.” In 2004, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) relied on secret shoppers to examine the effectiveness of Medicare’s help line.
Flash forward a few years, and President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services proposes assembling a team of “mystery shoppers” to pose as patients at primary care doctor offices “to see how doctors responded to prospective patients’ requests for an appointment, depending on whether they are privately insured or government-insured (Medicaid or Medicare recipients).” Republicans — who didn’t have a problem with Bush’s programs — now stand outraged, even after the administration backed down from its proposal. Rep. Tim Price (R-GA) has just sent out this fundraising plea:
As a physician, I know from personal experience that a doctor’s primary focus should be on providing the highest quality of care to his or her patients. Instead, doctors would have to worry whether the bureaucrats behind Obamacare were spying on them. I, along with dozens of my House Republican colleagues, immediately called on President Obama to put an end to this half-baked proposal.
Then, just days later, the Department of Health and Human Services — home of the unelected bureaucrats President Obama wants in charge of our health care — said they were abandoning their proposal to spy on doctors.
This episode illustrates a critical fact: The Conservative Republican Majority in the House is the only thing standing between you and the out-of-control Obama Administration.
In 2010, we saw a new wave of principled conservatives sweep into Washington, and together, we immediately began the roll-back of President Obama’s agenda. Your support of the House Conservatives Fund means these strong, conservative voices can fight back against the attacks of the left.
And so it’s unclear what the administration won in abandoning the program: Republicans are still hitting them over the head with it and will undoubtedly continue to raise fears about limited access to physicians and blame Obama for failing to take their concerns seriously.
One program which House Republicans have consistentlyseized upon to bolster their budget-cutting bona fides is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund, a successful program that has created 250,000 jobs in 37 states via subsidized employment programs for low-income and unemployed workers. And according to National Journal, Republicans are once again railing against the program, selecting it as one of their first programs to cut:
House Republicans have targeted one of the first programs they would like to ax: the $25 billion emergency fund for people who lose their jobs, part of last year’s stimulus bill. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said the program encourages states to increase their welfare caseloads “without requiring able-bodied individuals to work, get job training, or make other efforts to move off of taxpayer assistance.”
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out, Price’s characterization of the fund is completely inaccurate. The program has also earned the staunch support of many Republican governors, including Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS), who said it provided “much-needed aid during this recession by enabling businesses to hire new workers, thus enhancing the economic engines of our local communities.”
As The Wonk Room has explained, advocates, as well as the Obama administration, have asked that Congress fund the program for an additional year for $2.5 billion. Price multiplied that over ten years to come up with his ludicrous pronouncement that he would save $25 billion by cutting the program.
Capitalizing on the GOP and conservativepunditry’s “new rallying cry,” House Republican Study Commission Chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) will introduce a resolution today to prohibit Democrats from calling the House to assemble in a lame duck session of Congress following the November elections. Insisting that Democrats view the post-election period as “their last chance” to “enact the remaining items on the liberal wish list,” Price is pushing the resolution to force Democrats “to show if they support the use of a lame duck session to override the will of the American people.” HuffPo’s Sam Stein notes the resolution will amount to little more than “Kabuki theater.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and other Republican leaders were quick to jump on Price’s bandwagon. Like Price, Boehner asked constituents “to challenge” Democrats “to pledge right now that they won’t use a lame-duck session.” However, like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, these GOP leaders are suffering from selective amnesia about their own support of the 2006 lame duck session:
TOM PRICE: After losing 31 House seats in the 2006 elections, Price expressed his committment to accomplishing the GOP agenda by “stay[ing] in as long as we need to get done as much as we can do realistically.” “If that’s a week, fine. If that’s four weeks, fine,” he added.
JOHN BOEHNER: In 2006, Boehner was also “intent on finishing all [legislative] action,” including action on nine FY07 appropriations bills. When pushed on the length of the session, he was “unwilling to predict a possible closing date” until the agenda was accomplished.
MITCH MCCONNELL: After the ouster of six Senate Republicans in 2006, McConnell supported incoming Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) lame duck agenda, saying “if we can accomplish” the agenda “it would be a very productive lame duck and I like his attitude about it.”
President George W. Bush surprised Democrats with an unannounced, last-minute move to nominate John Bolton as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during that session. Despite the controversial and unpopular nomination, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pushed his colleagues to bring the nomination to the Senate floor for a vote. And in 1998, despite a consistent lack of public support for the effort, both McConnell and Boehner supported the impeachment of President Bill Clinton during a lame duck session.
Ignoring this prior history, Price insisted on C-Span today that the previous lame duck sessions were all “custodial” in nature, and claimed that the Democrats would use this session to push “fundamental issues.” When a couple of callers asked if Price would commit to not taking a salary during the lame duck session since he doesn’t want to work, the Georgia congressman skirted the issue, saying he’s “open” to discussing it. Watch it:
Some Democrats have assured Republicans that there is “no secret or overt plan.” Republicans, however, have decided to mount a politically-motivated campaign to try to take climate change legislation — and other pieces of the Democratic agenda — off the table.
Not only do Democrats not have the votes to pass hot-button legislation, but many Democrats facing reelection in 2012 don’t “have any more appetite to take a difficult vote.” Even McConnell and Republican aides, despite GOP bluster, recognize this, confirming to Slate’s Dave Wiegel that the lame duck session is “likely to be bland” and “noncontroversial.”
This morning, during an a segment about the upcoming midterm elections, Fox News host Bill Hemmer asked Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) about the GOP’s prospects. But in formulating his question, Hemmer suggested that he or the broader Fox News were part of the Republican party:
HEMMER: I want to know from you how you evaluate all these primaries we’ve been watching now. … As you evaluate things right now, some five a half months out, I mean, where do we stand? How strong a position are Republicans? Or what happened in Pennsylvania, in Jack Murtha’s old district, does that give people like you pause and say, hang on here, we’ve got a lot of work to do still.’
Since health care reform became law, there has been a split amongst conservatives and Republicans over whether to campaign for a full or partial repeal of the bill. Some Republicans who initially called for full repeal, like Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), are now walkingaway from such a radical position. On Fred Thompson’s radio show Thursday, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) tried to walk a fine line when guest host Dom Giordano questioned him about “the backsliding among some Republicans.” After calling for the repeal of only “the egregious aspects of the health care bill,” Price said he wanted to push for full repeal of the stimulus and the TARP program:
GIORDANO: And then I look at Republicans saying that they may not nationwide, this is the leadership now, Mitch McConnell and others, use the repeal the bill thing, which I think all conservatives that I know of, that’s the mantra, that’s the battle cry, going into this. That’s what worries some of us about the backsliding among some Republicans.
PRICE: Well, listen, let me give you some optimism and hope. The conservative Republican majority that will be in the House of Representatives, I believe, after the November 2010 election will be a different kind of Republican. The majority of the Republican conference will be, have served three terms or fewer. It’s a different kind of Republican, it will be a new style of leadership that will demand a decrease in spending. Demand truly smaller government. Demand individual responsibility. Demand that we get within our means and also harken back to those wonderful American fundamental principles that have made us the greatest nation in the history of the world. Look, we’re not only interested in repealing the egregious aspects of the health care bill, we’re interested in repealing the money from TARP. We’re interested in repealing the non-stimulus bill. We’re interested in repealing the bailout philosophy that continues to move us in a direction that makes us all subjects of the federal government as opposed to that wonderful American liberty and freedom that we all cherish.
Price, who first said that the GOP would run on a policy of repeal in Sept. 2009, did not explain how he would repeal the stimulus and TARP money that has already been doled out, including the $134,148,933 that has been sent to Price’s district as of Dec. 31, 2009.
It seems the only play the President knows how to run is a hollow PR blitz. Republicans welcome honest discussion, but this event reeks of political gamesmanship. Throughout this debate, Republicans have been stiff-armed from participating, our plans ignored, and our ideas blatantly misrepresented. It’s quite telling that only now, once the President’s plan is considered to be on political life support, does the White House seek input from Republicans.
The fact that the President has indicated he is still completely wedded to a government takeover of health care demonstrates that despite the rhetoric, he just hasn’t gotten the message from the American people. Americans have no interest in handing personal medical decisions to the government and are sick of Washington’s unchecked growth and power.
The only constructive discussions will start with a blank sheet of paper. The American people have soundly rejected the President’s big-government approach to health care, and tinkering at the margins of it will not bring about bipartisan consensus. Enacting positive health care reform still remains possible, but it will require the President to accept that his plan is a non-starter with the American people.
The truth is, Republicans are lucky to receive any hearing at all. After all, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) attempted to reach a bipartisan health care bill for months, only to produce produce a fairly watered down proposal that every Republican — with the exception of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) — abandoned. As Baucus remarked some months later, “we worked very hard to get a bipartisan bill. That side of the aisle started working with us but gradually they began to bleed politically,” Baucus said. They realized “that they would do a better chance in the 2010 elections by just not working with us, but just attack attack attack attack attack and try to score political points to defeat any honest effort to get health care reform.”
This is a take-two for bipartisanship and it’s up to the Republicans to meet the Democrats half way. They can either turn the event into “a hollow PR blitz” that “reeks of political gamesmanship” or abandon all of the government-takeover nonsense and figure out how to make reform work. The summit will be what Republicans make of it.
At a briefing with conservative bloggers held at the Heritage Foundation today, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) articulated “the way forward for conservatives.” Bachmann’s strategy consisted of defeating Democrats in 2010, defunding the left and passing a series of “repealer” bills:
BACHMANN: We have to defund the left. And this is great. Gallup came out with a poll, I think last week or the week before, that said the American people believe that Congress wastes 50 percent — 50 cents or 50 percent of every dollar it spends. God love the American people. They get it. They understand the truth that actually there’s huge waste. So we defund that but then the third thing that we do, which you’re getting into with economic development, is we have to after we defund the left, we pass repealer bill after repealer bill after repealler bill. Because there’s a huge machinery that’s been built up in this town. And we have to just repeal it. And we have to campaign on that to the American people. That is a hugely winning message right now with the American people.
Bachmann isn’t the first conservative member of Congress to express a desire to “repeal” legislation passed under Obama if Republicans take back control of Congress again. In August, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said “we’ll repeal” health care reform if it passes. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) said at the Values Voter Summit last month that he dreams of telling President Obama in 2010, “we need to repeal the disaster and the tyranny that you passed last session.”