Payroll tax cuts, unemployment insurance benefits and putting 'a man on the moon'

12/13/2011 08:31 PM

Kentucky’s congressional delegation split among party lines Tuesday night during a vote on a package of key provisions, including extending the payroll tax cut, speeding the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and extending but altering unemployment benefits.

During the afternoon floor debate over the package, Kentucky Republican Congressman Geoff Davis of the 4th District said the unemployment insurance system needed to be reined in because of its cost.

“U.I. spending now totals over a half a trillion dollars in the past five years. That’s over five times — listen to this — five times as much as it costs to put a man on the moon,” Davis said at the conclusion of his speech.

That comparison didn’t sit well with House Democrats.

Michigan Congressman Sander Levin, the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, said equating benefits for the unemployed to putting a man on the moon was “unconscionable.”

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat, said he opposed the package because it balanced the payroll tax cut on the backs of everyday Americans by trimming back unemployment benefits by $11 billion and raising health costs on seniors by $31 billion. At the same time, he said, Republicans continue to protect the wealthiest Americans by resisting a tax on millionaires to cover the payroll tax cut’s cost.

The measure passed Tuesday evening 234-193 with 10 Democrats voting with the Republican majority and 14 Republicans voting against it with most of the Democrats.

All four of Kentucky’s GOP congressmen voted for it, while Yarmuth and his fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles, voted against it.


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