The House voted Thursday to repeal an onerous tax-withholding requirement, a move Republicans said would not only help create jobs, but should also dispel Democratic arguments that the GOP is not working expeditiously to find areas of agreement on job creation.
The 405-16 House vote in favor of repeal is the first time Republicans have made good on their promise to take consensus elements of President Obama’s American Jobs Act and pass them individually. Obama’s bill called for another one-year delay in the rule that would require the government to withhold 3 percent of payments to contractors for tax-collection purposes.
The Republican bill would repeal the rule entirely, which the administration supported. Republicans were quick to claim a double victory on both job creation and bipartisanship.
“The strong bipartisan vote on this measure is the latest example of both parties working together to create a better environment for private-sector job creation,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) agreed.
“By passing another jobs bill, House Republicans are helping companies cope with this era of uncertainty,” Cantor said on the House floor. “This is another bipartisan and commonsense solution to support the small businessmen and -women of our economy so that they can support and begin to regenerate our ailing economy.”
Republicans went a step further by daring Democrats to take the bipartisan plunge, first by taking up the withholding repeal bill in the Senate next week.
“The president asked us to come together and pass pieces of his bill,” McConnell said. “Here’s one that all 100 senators should agree on. Let’s vote on it, and prove the skeptics wrong by acting in a bipartisan fashion on something that the job creators in this country actually want.”
Republicans clearly see the strong House vote on the withholding-tax repeal bill as an answer to Obama, who said in stump speeches this week that he cannot wait for the Republican House to act on his various jobs proposals. Obama even announced a new slogan — “We can’t wait” — as justification for taking administrative steps to help people struggling with mortgage and student loan payments.
Cantor bristled at the notion that the House isn’t moving quickly, and said on the floor that Obama’s message would be better targeted at the Democrat-controlled Senate.
“We continue to pass job bills,” Cantor said. “Perhaps it’s time for the president to deliver the ‘We can’t wait’ message to the other body in the Capitol.”
Republicans said the recent passage of three free-trade deals is another recent example of bipartisanship, as Obama supported those deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. But they said there were plenty of other chances for Democrats to show they, too, can exercise their bipartisan muscles — specifically, the 15 House-passed bills that Republicans said would help job creation but have sat in the Senate with no action.
The so-called “Forgotten 15” bills (which actually number more than 20) are aimed at reviewing and easing federal regulations, reducing tax paperwork for small companies and increasing U.S. energy production. The three trade bills and a patent-reform bill are also listed, although they have been signed into law.
“Many of these bills passed the House with bipartisan support — 15 commonsense bills that will help get our economy moving again,” Boehner said. “The president says ‘We can’t wait’ to take action on jobs, and I agree. Mr. President, help us with the United States Senate to pass these bipartisan, commonsense bills that will get our economy moving once again.”
Senate Democrats are unlikely to make any of the “Forgotten 15” bills an example of bipartisanship, as many would ease or delay environmental regulations that Democrats have championed.
A more likely outcome is Senate passage of the tax-withholding repeal bill, although even here, there’s a possible hitch. The House approved a bill to pay for the repeal of the withholding rule by limiting middle-income Americans’ access to Medicaid and other health programs.
Last year’s healthcare law expanded access to these programs in a way that Republicans and some Democrats said would distract these programs from their core mission of serving the poor; the Obama administration said it supports this correction. But by late Thursday, there was no word on whether the Senate would accept this way of paying for the withholding-tax repeal.
—This story was posted at 3:27 p.m. and updated at 8:02 p.m.