- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Signing ceremonies for important bills often include the Republican and Democratic lawmakers instrumental in getting the legislation passed — but there are no such plans in the works for when President Obama signs the payroll-tax compromise scheduled to reach his desk later this week.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday the tax cut isn’t an occasion to celebrate.

Instead, the president on Tuesday hosted an event with a group of middle-class Americans who will benefit from the extension of the 2-percentage-point cut.

Congress overwhelmingly passed the $143 billion tax cut and unemployment benefits extensions on Friday after Republicans gave in to demands that backers find a way to pay for the payroll-tax cut, which was scheduled to expire at the end of the month.

The president urged Congress to pass more of his agenda and said public pressure persuaded Republicans to surrender.

Several members of the public who wrote on social networking sites about how the tax increase would affect their lives gathered behind Mr. Obama at the event.

“This got done because of you — because you called, emailed and tweeted your representatives and demanded action,” Mr. Obama said. “You made it clear you wanted to see some common sense in Washington, and because you did, no Americans are going to see their taxes go up, and that’s good news.”

The measure will extend the reduction in the tax that funds Social Security and extend long-term benefits for unemployed workers. It also avoids a major cut in the reimbursement doctors receive for treating Medicare patients.

For a typical family, the tax cut will amount to an extra $40 a week in its paycheck — enough to cover an average water bill for a month, Mr. Obama said. And the tax-cut extension will affect other economic decisions as well — more people will spend money, and more businesses, in turn, can hire more workers.

“So this tax cut makes a difference,” he said.

While the president gave Congress credit for doing the right thing on this issue, he said lawmakers must do far more to help boost the economy.

“My message to Congress is: Don’t stop here. Keep going. Keep taking the action the people are calling for to keep the economy going. The American people have no patience for gridlock and reflexive partisanship.”

While the ceremony was billed as an official event, the political implications were abundantly clear. With the president’s poll numbers rising as he positions himself as the leading guardian of the middle class, Republicans can’t afford to be tagged as responsible for increasing taxes on the majority of U.S. voters.

The payroll-tax cut was considered a must-pass piece of legislation by the president, and Mr. Obama is also pushing for several other items outlined in his jobs bill and last month’s State of the Union address, as well as his “We Can’t Wait Agenda” — including bills to help small-business owners and homeowners affected by the housing boom and bust.

The president earlier this month called for expansion of government assistance to homeowners that would make it easier for millions of borrowers who are “underwater” on their mortgages to refinance and qualify for lower interest rates.

He is also pushing Congress to approve the so-called Buffett rule, which would require people making more than $1 million a year to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.

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