House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer called Republicans to task on Thursday for bringing up unpaid-for tax extenders while allowing unemployment insurance to lapse, and suggested that all of it could be paid for if the House passed a comprehensive immigration overhaul .
In his weekly colloquy, the Maryland Democrat told Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., that it is not right for Republicans to demand that certain policies be offset — such as a "doc fix " and unemployment insurance — while the House plans to take up a $155 billion permanent research and development tax credit that is not paid for.
"We are going to make a decision, apparently, not to pay for something that we know is going to increase the deficit. So the analogy when we want things paid for is not always followed," Hoyer said. "For instance, unemployment insurance, almost invariably not paid for. ... We have a bipartisan, paid-for unemployment insurance bill that the Senate passed ... that we can't get to the floor. It's paid for and helps 2.5 million people who are falling through the cracks. Yet we bring a bill to the floor that has a $155 billion cost, don't pay for it and the unemployed 2.5 million are ignored."
Hoyer also noted that if the House passed a comprehensive immigration rewrite, it could pay for all the tax extenders. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate-passed immigration bill would save $175 billion over a decade.
"Mr. Boehner indicated that that was not being done because it was tough and people didn't want to do tough things. I understand that. It's hard to do tough things. That's why they're called tough," Hoyer said. "The reason we're considering this bill next week is because it's easy to do. The reason we're not considering comprehensive immigration reform is because it's difficult to do, but comprehensive immigration reform would pay for all of the tax cuts that are being proposed in these six extenders and indeed in the extenders proposed by the Senate Finance Committee."
Cantor replied that the biggest impediment to action on immigration legislation is President Barack Obama and the trust deficit between Republicans and the White House.
"I've said to the president that what could help is we start rebuilding that trust, which starts with an admission that it can't be can't be my way or the highway," Cantor said. "There are things that this House has done before, like a green card stapled to a diploma, but the president says, 'No we can't do something like that. They can't, we can't do something like that without taking care of everything.'"
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