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Mr. President: Why the change?

“This Congress cannot and should not leave for vacation until they have made sure that tax increase doesn’t happen.  Let me repeat that:  Congress should not and cannot go on vacation before they have made sure that working families aren’t seeing their taxes go up by $1,000 … I expect all of us to do what’s necessary to do the people’s business, and make sure it’s done before the end of the year.”

These aren’t my words. They were spoken urgently by President Obama little more than a week ago.

He’s not alone. Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have recently insisted on a one-year extension of the federal payroll tax holiday. On the Senate floor November 28th, Reid called for passage of a one year extension saying, “We need to assure those families that they can rely on that [payroll] tax cut next year as well.”  On the House floor December 7th, Pelosi supported the President’s one-year extension declaring, “We can’t go home without the payroll tax cut …”

House Republicans agree. 

That’s why we passed a bi-partisan bill December 13th that includes the full year tax holiday for families and small businesses – just as the President asked. Since the clock is ticking it also includes reforms to continue unemployment benefits for a full year, pay local doctors fairly to treat Medicare patients for the next two years, job creating provisions and cuts to wasteful spending to pay for it all.

Yet President Obama and Congressional Democrats who just last week insisted on a full year extension have suddenly changed course and are now fiercely opposed to the House’s goal to do the same. 

What changed?  Why the reversal in principles?  In a struggling economy where Main Street faces a litany of uncertainty it’s puzzling that the President and Congressional Democrats are suddenly embracing a more short-term stop-gap policy. Settling for a meager two month extension guarantees this fight occurs again in February – and possibly every few months thereafter. How does that help boost President Obama’s struggling economy or restore consumer confidence?   

A review of recent history reveals that Senator Reid wasn’t always so opposed to bringing Democrats back from their holiday vacations to finish their work. In September of 2008 he proposed bringing the Senate back to work to pass the largest bank bailout in American history, proclaiming “We're going to get this done and stay in session as long as it takes to get it done.”  This past summer he abruptly canceled the traditional July 4th recess to try to muscle through an increase in America’s staggering debt limit. President Obama joined him, declaring that members of Congress should “cancel things and stay here.” 

Let’s get this straight: Senate Democrats will willingly cancel their vacations to bail out Wall Street Banks and drive the United States deeper into debt, but now won’t interrupt their long Christmas vacation to ensure a full year tax holiday for American workers?    

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi is similarly hypocritical. Holding the House gavel in the summer of 2010 she had no problem recalling House members from their August recess to ram through a debt-cringing taxpayer funded bailout to labor unions and government workers just ahead of the mid-term elections.   

But now she refuses to appoint Democrat negotiators to sit down with Republicans to make sure hard-working Americans won’t wake up New Years Day with smaller paychecks. Why are handouts to government workers a higher priority than helping all American families who work?  

As the White House and Congressional Democrats careen wildly from position to position depending upon the political winds, it’s no surprise Americans continue to lose confidence in Washington to act responsibly and in the best interest of the nation. 

Given the inconsistency between the words and deeds of President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress, hardworking taxpayers deserve to know “why the change”?

They don’t care about the messaging war or whose political fortunes are prevailing this week.  Main Street small businesses face confusing payroll changes, doctors’ offices face another funding cliff in two short months, and workers don’t get to vacation until their jobs are done, all deserve a straightforward answer from President Obama and Democrats in Congress.

Why the change? And what are you doing these days that’s more important than sitting down with House Republicans to solve this problem now?

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