Harry Reid Says Republicans Want to Put ‘Arsenic And Mercury in the Water’

Susan Jones | February 7, 2012 | 11:59am EST
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Ariz., talks about President Obama's job bill, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) - Republicans "strongly support' an extension of the payroll tax cut, but Democrats refuse to engage in "good faith negotiations," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday. McConnell also suggested that Democrats are making wild accusations as part of their effort to pressure Republicans.

Democrats have made it clear there will be no payroll tax cut extension unless Republicans agree to pay for it with a tax hike on the wealthy. Republicans refuse to raise taxes in a weak economy. And therefore, Republicans are sure to be blamed for letting the payroll tax cut expire at the end of February.

In his comments on Tuesday, McConnell said a solution requires both sides to bargain in "good faith."

"And when the Majority Leader of the Senate (Harry Reid) comes to the floor and says that Republicans in Congress are only willing to extend this tax cut if they’re allowed to poison Americans’ drinking water, then I think it’s pretty safe to say that they’re the ones who’ve veered away from good faith negotiations."

In remarks on the Senate floor Monday, Reid said Republicans would extend the payroll tax cut -- if Democrats "will let us (Republicans) continue to put things like arsenic and mercury in the water of the American people."

The bill extending the payroll tax would eliminate an EPA pollution regulation, and that explains Reid's reference to arsenic and mercury in the drinking water. The bill also would force President Obama to make a decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline before the election.

Although Reid on Monday called for a "spirit of compromise" in negotiating a year-long payroll tax cut, he also said Democrats are prepared "to act with or without Republican cooperation."

Both parties agree that without a payroll tax extension, the average American worker would see his or her paycheck increase by $1,000 this year.

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According to Reid, "In exchange for extending this middle-class tax break, Republicans are insisting we pass unrelated, ideological legislation that will make our water less safe to drink. And they’re refusing to close tax loopholes, such as giveaways to oil companies making record profits. Instead they insist on more handouts to millionaires and billionaires before they’ll do anything to benefit the middle class."

Reid says he thought Republicans "got the message" in December, "when they took a beating for opposing this tax cut." He indicated that if Republicans don't go along with a tax hike for the wealthy, "the outcome eventually will be the same."

Reid said Democrats will prepare a "fallback plan" in case Republicans "refuse to cooperate."

McConnell accused Democrats of being "more interested in scoring political points than in scoring a tax cut that millions of middle-class Americans are counting on."

The Senate Republican leader also criticized Reid for advancing a proposal of his own at a time when a conference committee is the the middle of negotiating a deal. McConnell said that alone indicates the "problem isn't with Republicans."

The problem, said McConnell, is with a Democratic majority and a president who were elected to lead -- but who show no leadership in resolving a "pressing problem."

McConnell said Reid should give the conferees time to finish their work -- "and get this payroll tax cut extended for the rest of the year.

"That’s what Republicans want. That’s what the President says he wants. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to get this done," McConnell said. “The Democratic Majority in the Senate should be encouraging that effort, not rooting for its failure.”

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