WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader John Boehner managed to turn a routine vote to adjourn into a test vote on a full extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, turning a sure-thing vote into a nailbiter and prompting a volley of attacks against Democrats they hope to unseat this fall like Tim Walz.
Meanwhile, Democrats took aim at Republicans over a vote on health care for 9/11 first responders and survivors — saying they “deserve better” than the no vote most Republicans gave them.
Wednesday was the last day for House votes until after the election. The House is scheduled to reconvene on Nov. 15.
In a surprise move, Boehner cast the vote to adjourn as one on taxes, imploring colleagues not to adjourn before having an up-or-down vote on the expiring Bush tax cuts. Republicans, including all three Minnesota Republicans, want the entirety of the tax cuts extended, while most Democrats have advocated for letting tax breaks expire for those making more than $250,000 a year. The difference between the two plans is about $700 billion.
The House was eventually able to adjourn — by a margin of just one vote.
“Walz and the rest of the Democrats in Congress have in effect cast a vote for higher taxes by refusing to take up extension of these tax cuts — and they hope no one will notice,” said Randy Demmer’s Campaign Manager Jason Flohrs. “Voters will hold them accountable for their inaction. They are raising taxes in the worst economic environment in a generation. That’s a job killer for any small businesses planning for growth.”
“I can understand why Representative Demmer would be upset that Congress adjourned without giving millionaires like himself a tax break,” shot back Sara Severs, spokeswoman for Walz. “Tim Walz voted for the largest tax cut for middle class families in history and has continued to advocate for middle class tax relief. Apparently, Representative Demmer only cares about the debt until it gets in the way of tax breaks for himself.”
9/11 as an election issue
Democrats shot back, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer telling reporters that “when we return, we will continue fighting for middle class families as we have throughout this Congress, and that includes extending middle class tax cuts.”
“While Republicans want to hold middle class tax cuts hostage to give tax breaks to the wealthiest that will add $700 billion to the deficit, we will make sure working families do not see a tax increase next year.”
Democrats weren’t going to let Republicans leave without a tough vote of their own, however, and that came in the form of a $7.4 billion bill to give 9/11 first responders, cleanup workers and others living near the attack area free health care.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wasted no time in sending out a news release blasting Reps. Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen for voting against it (I didn’t get one for Rep. John Kline, but he joined all but 17 of his GOP colleagues in voting no).
DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said it was “outrageous” that the Republicans “would talk about supporting the heroes of 9/11 but then vote against helping to treat those who risked their own lives and health while trying to save others.”
Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, said Democrats were miscasting the opposition.
“While House Republicans obviously support helping the heroes of 9/11, the Democratic Leaders added extraneous items and an unnecessary tax hike to the bill,” Steel said.