Giffords,Grijalva disagree on tax bill

Bitter pills abound in compromise
2010-12-18T00:00:00Z 2014-07-15T17:41:26Z Giffords,Grijalva disagree on tax billRhonda Bodfield Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 18, 2010 12:00 am  • 

They share a party affiliation, but Southern Arizona's congressional representatives parted company on the sweeping tax-cut bill signed into law Friday by President Obama.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, one of the surviving members of the Blue Dog coalition, joined 138 other Democrats in backing the $858 billion package.

Meanwhile, Raúl Grijalva, a co-chair of the progressive caucus, was among the 112 Democrats voting against it.

House Democrats initially balked at the package, which was hammered out between Obama and key Republicans in anticipation of the GOP taking back the House in January.

Included in the deal: The Bush-era tax cuts, otherwise set to expire Jan. 1, will be extended for everyone, including the top 2 percent of earners.

Jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed were extended 13 months.

Along with a child tax credit, credits for energy-efficient home improvements and tax breaks for college students, there is a one-year Social Security payroll tax break that could save some $800 a year for a worker making $40,000.

A deal on the estate tax keeps the first $10 million tax-free for wealthy couples, then taxes the rest at 35 percent, although Democrats had wanted at least a $7 million cap and a 45 percent rate.

"There was a lot in the tax package that I didn't care for, but the bottom line for me is this: With the economy slowly recovering, it's simply not the time to raise taxes on working, middle-class men and women in Southern Arizona," Giffords said.

Giffords said she wasn't happy with the estate tax fix, which will benefit an estimated 6,600 families at a cost of some $23 billion: "I don't think that's good public policy."

Nor does she like the cuts for the top 2 percent tax bracket, but said with 70 percent of the economy driven by consumer spending, "We cannot jeopardize future growth. You just can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Giffords noted that Republicans had to swallow things they didn't like, either.

Take Republican Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, who voted against the package. While he wanted to extend the Bush tax cuts, he didn't like the add-ons to the package and worried that the payroll tax cut will hasten the insolvency of Social Security. "Voters in November made it very clear that they want deep cuts to federal spending, and this bill offers exactly the opposite," Flake said.

Giffords said she saw people in both parties unhappy on the House floor Thursday night.

The other key for her, she said, was that 7 million unemployed will not lose the benefits that are helping them pay for mortgages, school tuition and groceries.

Pointing to the roughly 160 million workers who will see bigger paychecks because of the payroll tax cut, she said, "This is money that's going into spurring the economy. That's critical."

A clearly frustrated Grijalva, however, said Democrats lost big on the deal and the president caved too soon, giving the wealthy too much. He disputed claims that it will be the equivalent of a new stimulus package.

"The things that were in there were really bad and go against everything we were campaigning for and against the last two campaign cycles," he said.

The deal put at risk the solvency of the Social Security trust fund, he said. He predicted he'll have told-you-so rights in another six months, when Republicans are going to come back and say they're going to have to make deep cuts to public services to pay for the deal. And since the tax cuts are only temporary for two years, he said, "Are we going to be the party that raises taxes in an election year?"

He said Republicans should have been forced to vote in January on the individual bill components. "Let them defend the 2 percent extension for the very rich. Let them defend the estate tax. Let them defend the payroll holiday," he said.

Giffords said she wasn't willing to risk the possibility that, come January, Republicans wouldn't have just supported those things anyway, and then refused to give Democrats what they wanted.

"I'm not a soothsayer. I don't know what would have happened, but it was a risk I wasn't willing to take," she said.

Grijalva said he'd heard that argument. "I heard it from the president. I heard it from Gabrielle Giffords. But at some point, we have to act like Democrats," he said.

Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at rbodfield@azstarnet.com or 573-4243.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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