Hoyer: Democrats Don’t Have Enough Votes for Taxing the Rich in Payroll Tax Fight

By Matt Cover | January 17, 2012 | 4:51 PM EST

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com ) – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said there were not enough votes for Democrats to insist on raising taxes on wealthier Americans as part of a compromise to extend the payroll tax cuts for the remainder of 2012.

“Democrats didn’t insist on that [higher taxes for the wealthy] in December,” Hoyer said at his weekly press briefing on Monday. “That is – I think – what we think is the wisest way to proceed but obviously in the Senate they don’t have a majority for that proposition.”

The payroll tax cuts were extended for two months in December after Senate negotiators determined they could not reach a compromise on a year-long extension before the tax cuts expired on Dec. 31, 2011.

Congress has until the end of February to negotiate an extension for the remainder of the year or payroll taxes will rise on every working American. Both Republicans and Democrats support extending the tax cuts through 2012, leaving only the details of how to offset them left to negotiate.

Hoyer said there would be a compromise of some kind but would not comment on what Democrats might be willing to accept in terms of federal spending cuts to offset the lost revenue.

President Barack Obama signs the payroll tax cut extension, Friday, Dec. 23, 2011, in the White House Oval Office in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

“Obviously, a compromise will have to be reached [but] I’m not going to go into the possibilities – the conferees are going to have to work on that. Obviously, whatever we do has to be paid for [offset] and we want to see the middle class tax cut extended through December 31,” he said.

A conference committee has been appointed but has not started formally meeting yet to hash out how the payroll tax and a separate provision – the so-called Medicare Doc Fix – will be offset.

Under the current situation, the Social Security payroll tax for most employees is at 4.2 percent of wages through the end of February. Without a new deal, it will return to 6.2 percent.