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Well one day after I wrote a blog on House Republicans balking at the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans and making a messy situation even messier, they finally came to their senses and did right thing. With increasing political pressure and criticism, even from their colleagues in the Senate, they agreed to a two-month extension.
The earlier tax standoff harbored potential grave consequences for the Republican Party. Even Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich warned that the situation could end very badly for his party. “Republicans should do what is right for the American people,” he stated. The Wall Street Journal suggested that the tax debate “might end up re-electing (Obama) before the campaign begins.” And national polls were reporting that Republicans are getting killed in public opinion.
Is the House Republicans’ reversal a sign that things will finally begin to improve in the nation’s capital? Is it a lesson learned? Only time will tell. However, it does offer promise. Ag groups in town have been hoping and predicting, since the Super Deficit Reduction Committee failed to reach any agreement, that attention might be refocused on developing a new Farm Bill. Congress would have more time for holding hearings and receiving input from stakeholder groups.
The House Republicans’ action not only approves a two-month extension of the tax cuts; but it also continues benefits for the long-term unemployed that were scheduled to expire at the end of December as well as eliminates cuts in the reimbursement rates for doctors who treat Medicare patients. Economists had warned that these actions, if not taken, could imperil the overall U.S. economic recovery.
of Economic Advisers entered the fray by pointing out that never before had Congress failed to extend special benefits when unemployment rates are as high as they are today. Nearly 1.5 million voters would have automatically lost their coverage in January. That would have made a nice holiday gift for those facing desperate times.
The good news is that House Republicans did the right thing. The lingering concern is that the lawmakers will return to address these and other issues, such as higher Medicare premiums, the extension of the controversial Keystone SL oil pipeline and tax loopholes. But, for now, let’s accept the good news and begin the New Year on a good note.