WASHINGTON - By a 170-257 virtual party-line vote, the GOP-led House on August 1 rejected extending Democratic-proposed tax cuts for the middle class. Then, by an almost identical vote, it approved a Republican measure extending tax cuts for the rich as well as some cuts for the middle class, for one year.
The two votes, whose outcomes were expected, left a large coalition, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the National Education Association and other unions, to campaign for fairer tax cuts all the way through the election. They started by lobbying lawmakers for the bill before the August votes, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said.
"It's really critical to end these handouts for the wealthy and big corporations, while the rest of us are trying to just scrape by," said Van Roekel, an Arizona teacher.
He also said the GOP bill actually penalizes middle-class and working-class taxpayers, who would wind up paying more. "Our 3 million members say they have no more to give," Van Roekel commented. "The Obama tax plan" - the one that lost - "would benefit the 98 percent."
The House vote came less than a week after the Democratic-run Senate, also on a party-line vote, approved the middle class tax cut. The Senate had defeated the GOP plan, leaving Congress at loggerheads and tax cut issues dead until after the election.
That will send Van Roekel's teachers and other unionists out on the hustings, to talk about taxes, income inequality and starving the schools in favor of a tax cut for the rich.
"We've already started to mobilize our people to contact congressman" both at their offices during the August recess and in the Capitol in September. "the phone calls and the e-mails will be in the thousands. In the economic crisis we lost 450,000 jobs" in the schools. "Further tax cuts for the wealthy will cut even more funding" for schools.
Other labor groups in the Americans for Tax Fairness coalition include AFGE, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, SEIU, the Auto Workers, Working America and state NEA affiliates in Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Oregon and Virginia.
Nineteen Democrats joined 238 Republicans to defeat the middle class-only tax cut. No Republican voted for it. A different set of 19 Democrats voted for the GOP's tax bill, while one Republican, Tim Johnson of Illinois, did not. Democrats backing the GOP bill included Reps. Tim Walz and Colin Peterson (Minn.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) who is running for the Senate, Mark Critz (Pa.), Bill Owens (N.Y.), two Iowans Leonard Boswell and Dave Loebsack) and two Californians Jim Costa, Jerry McNerney).
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