Hoyer slams payroll tax cut bill

An angry Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House Minority Whip, said Friday that he will vote against the payroll tax cut extension package to protest language that would require new federal workers to contribute more to their retirement.

The federal retirement language is how sponsors propose to help pay for other aspects of the bill, such as the extension of unemployment insurance benefits and avoiding scheduled cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. But Hoyer said the bill unfairly forces federal workers alone to pay for these changes.

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"Nobody is targeted in this bill other than federal employees," he said on the House floor. "That's not how you want to treat our employees, America's employees.

"We ought to stop dissing them, we ought to stop demagoguing them, we ought to stop using 'bureaucrat' as an epithet."

The bill, H.R. 3630, would increase by 2.3 percent the employee pension contribution for federal employees who begin work after 2012, and make the same change for members of Congress who start work after 2012. While this would boost the retirement contribution for future workers, it would not require current federal employees to increase their retirement contributions, as the House-passed bill would have required.

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Despite this compromise, Hoyer said the bill still targets only federal workers, and said the Republican-controlled House continues to unfairly single out these workers.

"This Congress is on the path to being the most anti-federal-worker Congress that I have served in," he said.

"What we are funding this bill with was unnecessary, unfair, and ought to be rejected. The only individuals paying for this bill, out of 315 million Americans, are the 2 million civilian workers who work for us, who work for all of us."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took to the floor shortly after Hoyer spoke to say she will support the bill, as she supports the extension of the payroll tax holiday.

"This represents a victory for the middle class in our country," she said.

Pelosi said she identifies with Hoyer's concerns about federal workers, but that she will support the bill nonetheless, a sentiment many Democrats are likely feeling.

"On balance, I come down in favor of supporting what the president asked us to do," she said.

Hoyer himself acknowledged that while he will vote against the measure because of the federal worker retirement language, he supports "almost all of this bill."