Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) issued the following statement following the House passage of the Senate Amendment to the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 (H.R. 4853). Rep. Engel voted against the deal because the concessions made to the ultra-wealthy far outweighed the positive elements included for the middle class.
"Voting against this measure was a very difficult decision to make, especially when you factor in all of the many social, economic and political elements of this bill. In the end, I believe the negatives were just too great to support the bill and I had to oppose it. When you link together lucrative tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires with both a relaxed version of the estate tax, and a very dangerous slippery slope towards an attack on Social Security benefits, you have a deal I cannot support.
"I regret that because of these truly disagreeable parts of the deal, I was unable to vote for some of the things I truly believe in. I think our nation's unemployed need security knowing that their benefits won't be yanked away by a Republican majority in 2011. Republicans have fought against unemployment insurance for the past year. I think some of the tax cuts included are vital for the middle and lower income people -- the Child Tax Credit, a two-year extension of relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax and the Earned Income Tax Credit are great ideas - and I did vote for them earlier this month when the House passed the lower and middle income tax cut. And I would vote for them again when they are not held hostage by tax breaks for the ultra wealthy.
"However, I cannot support something which threatens the very fiber of Social Security. Americans have been paying into Social Security for decades, and seniors rely upon it for their retirement years. It is the ultimate safety net in our society. By reducing the payroll tax, we are slicing into the revenue stream which funds Social Security. Even if we do it temporarily, it becomes very difficult to move back to where it is today. And if we make one concession in the funding of Social Security, it kicks open the door to more. That is unacceptable.
"I have already voted to provide middle class taxpayers an extension on these tax cuts. But Senate Republicans stood in the way. I have already voted -- several times -- to provide unemployment insurance for those who need it. Senate Republicans have filibustered that time and again. It is due to their strategy of obstructing rather than governing which has led to the unnecessary combining of all of these issues into one compromise.
"I voted against the Bush Tax Cuts in 2001 and 2003, as I do not subscribe to the trickledown theory where more money in the hands of billionaires will reflect in any gains for the middle class. It is this very policy which has nearly bankrupted our country. I find it curious that Republicans have masqueraded as deficit hawks for the last two years, but as soon as billionaire tax cuts are involved, they are perfectly fine with deficit spending. It only goes to prove the hypocrisy of the rhetoric leading up to the elections this year. They had no issues with increasing the deficit, just as long as it helped corporations and the wealthy, instead of helping our hard-working middle class.
"Regarding the estate tax, one of the greatest tricks ever created by the Republican spin machine was making the estate tax seem like a populist issue. In reality, it affects one-quarter of one percent of the entire nation. I will never understand how exempting the passed down fortunes of multi-millionaires are something that benefits working families. It is a windfall for the wealthy and will do nothing to stimulate the economy. By giving in on this, we are just giving away far too much to wealthiest Americans while further adding to our national debt. This is why I voted in favor of an amendment to modify the estate tax provision.
"It is regrettable that Republicans in the Senate forced the hand of the President by threatening to raise the taxes on the middle and lower income people, and stifling the benefits to those hit hardest by the recession, unless they got their way. It is unfortunate that this is the nature of the Senate where a clear minority could prevent the people's business from advancing. It is distasteful to me to see the needs of the richest few be deemed more important than those of small businesses, working families, the middle class and the poor. However, that is the nature of our political atmosphere these days, and the only ones who are hurt are the American people."