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Reid says millionaire surtax is back on the table in payroll talks

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Biden to tap Erika Moritsugu as new Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison White House races clock to beat GOP attacks MORE (D-Nev.) on Friday named four Senate Democrats to negotiate a full-year extension of the payroll tax holiday and said a surtax on millionaires is back on the table in the discussions.

Last week, Senate Democrats dropped their demand to offset the cost of a full-year payroll tax holiday with a surtax on income over a million dollars. 

But on Friday, Reid signaled Democrats will renew the push for the millionaires tax, which Republicans in both chambers strongly oppose.    

“I have instructed in a telephone call with my four senators there’s nothing off the table. Everything’s on the table,” Reid said.


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Reid said several Senate Republican colleagues have told him privately that they could support raising taxes on the wealthy to defray the budget impact.

The quick move by Reid to float the millionaire tax suggests Democrats are prepared to play hardball with the GOP in the next round of talks on the payroll package.  

Reid said he hoped Tea Party-affiliated freshmen had learned their lesson about the art of compromise after one of the most contentious legislative sessions in years.

He picked Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBottom line Bottom line Bottom line MORE (Mont.), Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision When it comes to the Iran nuclear deal, what's a moderate Democrat to do? Battle lines drawn on Biden's infrastructure plan MORE (Md.), Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedFive questions about Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Overnight Defense: Biden nominating first female Army secretary | Israel gets tough on Iran amid nuclear talks | Army's top enlisted soldier 'very proud' of officer pepper sprayed by police MORE (R.I.) and Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats Democrats divided on gun control strategy Senate Democrats call on DHS for details on response to Portland protests MORE Jr. (Pa.) as the Senate Democratic representatives of the conference.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult Why President Biden is all-in in infrastructure MORE (R-Ky.) will pick three lawmakers to represent his conference.

Reid said he expected conference negotiators to work over the December and January recess. He instructed his staff to get together next week to begin planning for the conference.

“Senate Democrats will get together, there will be a schedule — we’ll work together to come up with a schedule so that during the time we’re out of session, the conferees will still have work to do,” Reid said.  

Cardin represents many federal workers in Maryland and can be expected to strongly oppose proposals to further restrict federal worker pay. 

Reed, whose home state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, is one of the Senate’s most outspoken advocates of extending unemployment benefits.

Reid said he expected a difficult conference with the House, noting that five of the eight appointed House Republican conferees have questioned the value of extending the payroll tax holiday. 

“I’m very disappointed with the conferees that the House has appointed; five of the eight have already spoken out — prior to being appointed — spoke out against extending the payroll tax cut,” Reid said.

One GOP conferee, Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyBuchanan to seek top GOP position on Ways and Means Committee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire MORE (R-Texas) said earlier this month: “I’m not as big of a fan of the payroll tax cut … and the payroll tax cut, just like the other rebates, has had a marginal impact at best.”

Reid praised McConnell for standing by the compromise measure they negotiated last week to extend the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits for two months.

Reid said he hoped House Republicans, especially Tea Party-affiliated members, would be more receptive to compromise in 2012 after a contentious year of battling over spending cuts and tax increases, which almost shut the government down in April and caused a national default in August. 

“Everything we do around here does not have to wind up in a fight. That’s not the way things need to be,” Reid said. “It seems everything we have done this last year has been a knock-down, drag-out fight. There’s no reason to do that. 

“If there was message received from this last thing we’ve been through, I would hope especially the new members of the House will understand legislation is the art of compromise and consensus-building, not trying to push your way through on issues that you don’t have the support of the American people.”