U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) today voted to support the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act," which passed the House with bipartisan support. The bill includes fully paid-for extensions of the payroll tax holiday and protects reimbursements to doctors under the Medicare program for two years. It also reforms the unemployment insurance program and forces action on the Keystone XL pipeline project in 60 days. The vote was 234 to 193.
"This bill makes sense for several reasons, including that it keeps more money in the hands of workers and their families as our economy continues to struggle," said Rep. Thornberry. "At the same time, spending cuts and reforms ensure that the Social Security Trust Fund is made whole," he continued.
The Act extends the current payroll tax rate of 4.2 percent for employees--set to expire at the end of this year--through 2012. It also includes offsets to prevent an increase in the nation's deficit and to protect the Social Security program, which the payroll tax funds. These offsets include extending the current pay freeze for federal workers, including Members of Congress, and increasing employee contributions for federal pensions; limiting government benefits for millionaires and billionaires; and, targeting fraud and abuse by reforming entitlement programs. According to estimates, approximately 170 million Americans will benefit from this payroll tax cut extension. The average worker earning $50,000 per year will take home $1,000 more over the course of the year.
The Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act also permanently reforms the unemployment insurance program and gradually reduces the maximum benefits from 99 weeks to 59 by mid-2012, reversing expansions signed into law by President Obama. The bill will require all unemployment recipients to search for work, be enrolled in GED programs if they have not finished high school, and participate in reemployment services. The law also allows the states to drug test recipients of unemployment benefits.
"The House has focused on jobs and the economy this year, and part of this focus has been on making long-term changes to spending and federal programs. While we have not gotten everything we wanted as quickly as we wanted, we continue to move the reform discussions forward. This bill builds on that progress," Thornberry commented.
The legislation also protects Medicare by providing certainty for physicians and patients through a two year "doc fix." The plan averts a 27.4 percent cut to physician payment rates, which ensures seniors have continued access to their doctors.
Finally, the bill requires that the President make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline project within 60 days of passage. The proposed pipeline will link oil supplies in Canada and North Dakota to refineries in the Midwestern and Southern United States. The House passed legislation earlier this year that would have forced the President to make a decision on the pipeline that has been tabled by the White House until after the 2012 elections.
Thornberry, a strong supporter of the Keystone project, said, "The pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs now, increase access to reliable domestic energy, and reduce our reliance on foreign oil producers. Elections and special-interest environmental politics should not get in the way of doing the right thing for our economy and national security."
The bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration. If you would like to learn more about the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, visit the "Tax Relief & Jobs" section of Congressman Thornberry's website (www.thornberry.house.gov).