U.S. Sen. Scott Brown on Monday commended President Barack Obama for reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans on a compromise bill that would extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while also extending unemployment benefits and cutting payroll taxes for the middle class.
As the U.S. Senate prepared for a critical procedural vote on the $858 billion tax deal Obama has struggled to defend against criticism from liberal Democrats, Brown praised the compromise even though he said he was disappointed that it did not include a funding mechanism for the extension of unemployment benefits.
"I'm voting for it. I commend the president for reaching out to us. He and the vice president have been very active over the last couple of weeks trying to find a compromise and I think this is a compromise, one that I'm going to support and I think a whole host of Democrats are going to do as well," Brown said.
Brown, who was in Downtown Crossing Monday afternoon to ring a bell for the Salvation Army, planned to return to Washington later in the afternoon in time to vote for the tax bill. Brown posed for a few photos and signed several autographs during his downtown appearance and planned to visit a city food bank before catching his flight.
The Wrentham Republican has been highly critical of federal spending efforts that would add to the deficit. He said he would have preferred to find a way to pay for the extension of unemployment benefits without adding to the debt, but said it was not a deal breaker.
"Would I have done things differently? Sure. But I commend the president for working in a bipartisan manner to a find a solution to stop the biggest tax increase in our history in three weeks," Brown said.
Asked whether he would have supported the bill if it did not include an extension of the tax cuts for high-income earners, Brown called it "inappropriate" to look at the bill piecemeal, highlighting provisions in the bill that will cut payroll taxes for employees and make research and development tax credits permanent.
"This isn't about class warfare, this is about jobs period," Brown said.
He said he would continue to work on solutions to reduce the national deficit and cut federal spending in the next session, expressing a willingness to continue to work with the Obama administration over the next two years.
Brown also said he would oppose passage of the DREAM Act in the Senate if it came to a vote this week, calling the bill "backdoor amnesty." The bill, which is supported by Gov. Deval Patrick, provides a path to citizenship, through college or military service, for immigrants brought to this country illegally. It passed the U.S House last week
Support of the DREAM Act, including former Board of Higher Education Chairman Aaron Spencer, Father Thomas Domorat of the Most Holy Redeemer Parish in East Boston, and Centro Presente Executive Director Patricia Montes, gathered at Boston City Hall Monday morning to urge Brown to support the measure.
"I think it's backdoor amnesty and I'm not in favor of it," Brown told reporters.
Brown defended himself against reports that he had accepted $140,000 in donations from the financial industry during a three-week period when he was actively engaged in negotiating changes to the financial reform legislation that amounted to concessions for banks.
"I think there's not connection at all ," Brown said. "To try to think that I'm influenced in some way by donations from one industry is a silly quite frankly. I don't even see the donations that come in. We have teams that work on that stuff and if they're inappropriate we turn them back. And don't forget I voted for the bill that the financial and banking industry didn't want me to vote for."
Asked whether he supported the effort being pushed by Sen. John Kerry to authorize the Navy to purchase an additional 10 coastal combat ships at $500 million apiece, Brown acknowledged he had a parochial interest in creating as many as 500 new jobs at General Dynamics in Pittsfield.
Though some senators like Sen. John McCain have questioned cost overruns and other technical problems with this specific ship-building program, Browns said the Navy had an immediate need for new combat ships.
"We're going to dissect the military authorization bill and a whole host of other spending bills, but right now we have to modernize our force and that's one step in doing that," Brown said.