Chris Van Hollen floor speech: ‘We are witnessing the triumph of Tea Party extremism over the good of the country’

December 26, 2011

Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, spoke on the House floor against the refusal of the House Republican leadership to allow a vote on the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which passed with bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate.

REPRESENTATIVE VAN HOLLEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman from Michigan.

The American people should understand very clearly what's going on here right now. And that is that the Republican majority in this House of Representatives is refusing to allow a vote in this House on the Senate bipartisan compromise. They are refusing to even allow a vote on a bill that received 89 of 100 votes in the U.S. Senate, including 85 percent of the Senate Republicans. What are they so afraid of?

It’s very clear that the Republican leadership is afraid that that same bipartisanship that took place in the Senate will take place right here in the House. Because they don't want a bipartisan bill. Otherwise we would have a vote on it. What we are witnessing today, Mr. Speaker, is the triumph of Tea Party extremism over the good of the country. The sad part is we probably shouldn't be surprised because it was just a few months ago that the Republican leadership was opposed to extending the payroll tax cut at all. They originally said that raising taxes on 160 million Americans would be OK. No problem. I have a long list of statements from Republican House leaders to that effect.

Then two things happened. A whole lot of economists told us what was common sense, that in fact if you raise taxes on 160 million Americans, it will hurt the economy. And it also begins to sound a little strange for our Republican colleagues to be zealously protecting tax breaks for special interests and millionaires while allowing tax increases on 160 million Americans. So they changed their story. Then it was we couldn't do this because it was going to hurt the Social Security Trust Fund. That coming from the party that wanted to privatize Social Security. And then the Social Security actuary told us and the country that it wouldn't take one cent from the Social Security Trust Fund.

So now we have a whole different story today. Now the same folks who were opposed to any continuation of the payroll tax cut say they oppose the bipartisan Senate bill because it was only for two months. Now they are preventing a vote on that bill. The consequence is going to be very clear. On January 1st, 160 million Americans are going to see their payroll taxes increase. At the end of the day the Republican majority here in the House is going to go home, but you know what will remain here? The Senate bipartisan bill because we will never have voted for it.

So at any time in the next several weeks we can all come right back here and in a matter of five minutes send that bill to the President's desk which he said he will sign and make sure that we avoid a payroll tax increase on 160 million Americans. Make sure folks who are unemployed through no fault of their own get unemployment compensation. Make sure that doctors will continue to be paid when they treat Medicare patients so they can serve those patients. It will be sitting right here for three weeks. Why? Because the Republican majority won't let us vote on it.

I would be happy to yield 30 seconds to my friend, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to tell us why you refuse to allow a vote on the Senate bipartisan bill.

THE SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE: The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Camp, is recognized.

REPRESENTATIVE DAVE CAMP: I would just say that if Minority Leader Pelosi and Senator Reid appoint conferees, there is no reason for taxes to go up. With that I yield –

VAN HOLLEN: You didn't answer my question

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