U.S. Rep. Bill Owens now says he will vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House, as long as she agrees to govern from the center and focus on jobs.
Owens, D-Plattsburgh, told the Enterprise Monday that he hadn't decided whom he would vote for speaker and was considering abstaining or voting for Republican leader John Boehner. He said Tuesday afternoon he had been angry because he hadn't heard any feedback from either Pelosi or Boehner about a possible compromise he had proposed on extending the Bush-era tax cuts.
"I was blowing off a little steam because I was agitated that neither one of them had responded to me," Owens said.
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens joins students at Keene Central School for a Thanksgiving feast Tuesday. From left are Sam Balzac, Anna Kowenko, Justin Haverlick, Owens, Emma Gothner and (standing) Kaleb Wisher.
(Photo — Martha Allen)
The tax cuts are set to expire Jan. 1, and their extension has been held up by partisan disagreement. There are several compromise proposals out there, including one from Owens and three other House Democrats, but Owens says he hasn't gotten any response from the leadership in either party.
Owens said he has spoken to people in the leadership and keeps hearing, "Well the other side won't compromise.' ... That's the answer you get back, and that frustrates me a great deal."
Owens and three Democratic colleagues in the House have proposed a compromise that would include a one-year extension of the tax cuts for individuals and joint filers making under $500,000 yearly, as well as five-year extensions of the tax cuts on capital gains, qualified dividends and for individuals making under $200,000 and couples making under $250,000 yearly.
The Republicans will have a majority in the House when Congress reconvenes in January, and Boehner is all but guaranteed to be the next speaker. Pelosi was re-elected as Democratic leader last week, although 43 Democrats voted for challenger Heath Shuler. Owens told the Enterprise he voted for Pelosi after she assured him she would "govern from the center and makes jobs her priority," and he said Tuesday he would support her for speaker as well as long as she does these things.
Action on extending the tax cuts has been held up by disagreement between Republicans, who want all of them extended, and Democrats, who want them extended for most taxpayers but not for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 yearly.
Owens argued Tuesday that a compromise is necessary. The Republicans may be able to pass their desired version of the extension in the House, but the Democrats will still have a majority in the Senate, albeit narrower than now, and President Barack Obama is a Democrat.
If the tax cuts are extended sometime in January, after they expire, Owens said the lapse of a few weeks may not make a difference in tax bills on a "going-forward basis," but some people may "take tax planning steps that they wouldn't have, had this been resolved."
Owens said he has talked to people who have said they may liquidate assets in December to avoid a possible tax increase. He also said the government and businesses may have to spend money on reprinting tax withholding tables.
"There's a lot of reasons this should get done now," Owens said. "That's why my frustration built up. I've been thinking about these things for several weeks, and those folks need to respond to this."