As Payroll Negotiations Begin, GOP Once Again Choosing Confrontation Over Compromise

With millions of Americans still out of work and American families facing a tax increase if the payroll tax cut is not extended this month, it appears Republican conferees are focused on two controversial details: GED’s and drug testing.

As Politico reports, conferees on the Payroll bill met for the second time today, with precious few days left to reach a compromise and the GOP firmly dug in on unreasonable policy provisions:

“Lawmakers on Wednesday sparred over GOP-backed reforms of jobless benefits, such as drug testing and GED requirements – illustrating the gap among negotiators as they face a tightening deadline to extend those benefits and the payroll tax holiday.”

“During their first substantive negotiating session, Democrats aired their grievances against the Republican proposals, which would require recipients to be in a GED program and allow states to insist on drug screening before getting unemployment insurance.”

“’…If we can improve programs, let’s do it,’ said Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.). ‘But this is not the time – of historic long-term unemployment – to essentially pull the rug out from under people who are in need.”

“’The average person going on unemployment is over 40 years of age … and a GED is not going to make a difference getting their jobs back, quite frankly,’ said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

These provisions were complete non-starters during the last round of payroll tax negotiations and will only take us further from compromise.

Although it would mean breaking a long-standing habit, the GOP needs to work with Democrats on a year-long extension of tax cuts for middle class families, not draw lines in the sand over unworkable provisions.