President Barack Obama said public pressure was vital in getting Congress to extend a temporary payroll tax cut for workers and urged voters to push lawmakers to act on his proposals to help struggling homeowners and raise taxes on millionaires.
“This got done because of you, because you called, you e-mailed, you tweeted your representatives” to get them to act, Obama said of the payroll tax cut at an event meant to highlight U.S. workers who will benefit. “My message to Congress is, don’t stop here. Keep going.”
Obama used the passage of the payroll tax cut to mark an election-year victory on a part of his economic plan. With the threat of the temporary tax cut expiring at the end of the month, Republicans dropped their insistence on cutting spending to pay for the legislation.
To follow up, Obama lobbied for his proposal to let homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, and are current on their payments, save $3,000 per year through refinancing into lower-interest loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. Lawmakers should back pending legislation to help small businesses export more goods, he said.
He also renewed his call for Congress to pass legislation that would ensure taxpayers with incomes of $1 million or more pay a minimum rate of 30 percent. The measure is known as the Buffett rule after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who originated the idea last year.
“This may be an election year, but the American people have no patience for gridlock,” the president said.
Republicans have rejected Obama’s proposals, with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio calling them a rehash of earlier plans that won’t improve the economy.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said Feb. 19 that he would assemble a package of bills, including a 20 percent tax cut for small business in “the next several weeks.”
The Senate and the House of Representatives cleared the $145 billion payroll package on Feb. 17, and the White House said Obama plans to sign it into law later this week.
In addition to extending a two-percentage-point tax cut for workers, the measure will continue expanded unemployment benefits and avoid a cut in doctors’ Medicare reimbursements through the end of this year. The provisions would have expired at the end of the month if Congress hadn’t acted.