Published September 26, 2010
Democrats found time to bring a comedian to Capitol Hill, but refuse to have a vote on preventing tax increases at the end of the year, House Minority Leader John Boehner said Sunday, lamenting Congress' plan to skip a vote on extending Bush-era tax cuts before adjourning for campaign season.
Boehner, R-Ohio, who appeared with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on "Fox News Sunday," said he wants House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a "fair and open debate" on tax rates because he's confident a bipartisan majority would vote to continue current levels for all tax brackets, which would bring some certainty about the economy for the coming year.
"Washington is spending more time with comedians than debating (our) economic future," Boehner said, referring to comedian Stephen Colbert's mocking testimony of the House on Friday. "They have time to bring a comedian to Washington, D.C., but they don't have time to end the uncertainty.
"If we leave here this week and adjourn for the election without passing tax cuts, this will be the most irresponsible thing we've seen," Boehner said.
McCarthy said uncertainty about next year's tax rates will result in capital left on the sidelines, 1.2 million more lost jobs and $7 billion more in federal waste.
"She's afraid," McCarthy said of Pelosi. "She's got 37 Democrats in her own party that say they want to extend" tax cuts for all brackets.
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who appeared separately on the same show, said he doubts Democrats will schedule a vote on tax cuts before they depart, most likely at the end of the week, because "the Senate has refused to move forward on this issue."
"It would be a specious act" to pass cuts when the Senate won't get to them, said Hoyer, D-Md.
"The obstruction is in the Senate," he added, noting that House Democrats "have absolutely pledged" that there "will be no increase in middle class taxes."
Hoyer, who would not defend Colbert's appearance on Capitol Hill, said he would not pledge to skip a lame duck session after the Nov. 2 election because the appropriations process for fiscal year 2011 is still unfinished and "we need to come back and make sure we complete that process."
He added that majorities on both sides of Congresses have always respected that lawmakers are elected for 24 months, not 21 or 22 months, as measured by the lapse between the November election and the January oath of office.
Hoyer, who also did not argue the hypothesis of the question -- that Republicans will gain the majority in the House in November -- said if lawmakers do return for a lame duck session, "I don't think we're going to make any decisions against the will of the public."
The majority leader did argue that the Republican "Pledge to America," a 45-page document laid out last week that suggested Republican priorities from health care to border security to reforming the way Congress does business, is "more spin than specifics."
Conservative leaders and groups, including the Club for Growth, have described the new plan as "milquetoast" and the people who prepared it "unsuited to lead."
Hoyer said it also isn't paid for because Republicans who want to keep current tax rates have yet to find ways to reduce spending by $4 trillion over 10 years.
Boehner acknowledged that the pledge provides more philosophy than action. He said it deliberately omits discussion on changing Social Security or Medicare because the public doesn't yet grasp the magnitude of the problem.
"Let's not get to the potential solutions, let's make sure America understands how big the problem is," he said.
But McCarthy, one of the pledge's authors, who with Boehner claims the plan calls for "a smaller, less costly and more accountable government," said the proposal for next year is to cut $100 billion in spending, which would amount to 22 percent of non-defense, discretionary spending.
McCarthy said that non-defense discretionary spending has increased 88 percent over the past three years. A cut would amount to eight cents of every dollar. He said returning to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout budget is affordable.
"We can live on that," he said.
But President Obama's senior advisor, David Axelrod, said the Republican pledge would be catastrophic.
"When you look at that Pledge to America, it is a complete echo of what was done before. It would borrow $700 billion to cut taxes for the very wealthy, add trillions of dollars to the deficits. It would unleash the special interests to be writing rules here on Capitol Hill again," he said on ABC's "This Week."
"This isn't a prescription for economic growth; this is a prescription for surrender. We can't do that," he said.