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S.C. Rep. Clyburn takes Boehner, tea party to task over payroll tax cut

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn said Monday he had nothing good to say about Kim Jung Il — the North Korean leader who died Saturday — so he was not going to say anything at all.

But South Carolina’s lone Democratic congressman had plenty to say about U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and a controversial payroll tax cut extension during a Monday speech at the Columbia Rotary Club.

Clyburn criticized Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, and the Tea Party for backtracking on a deal that would have extended the payroll tax cut for another two months.

“At the time, Speaker Boehner called it a good deal ... . But about 50-60 people on the (Republican House Conference), all members of something we call the Tea Party, decided that it was not a good deal. And they blew it up,” Clyburn told a crowd of about 200 people at Seawell’s during lunch. “What we have today is what’s tantamount to another walking away from a deal.”

U.S. House lawmakers were expected to vote Monday night on the payroll tax cut which would keep payroll taxes at 4.2 percent instead of 6.2 percent for another two months. Clyburn, who had flown home Sunday afternoon, left his Rotary speech early to catch a flight back to Washington for the vote.

House Republicans say a two-month extension would be irresponsible and are pressing for a longer time period.

But in an interview shortly before his speech, Clyburn said he expects the payroll tax extension to pass eventually — even if lawmakers vote it down Monday night.

“Instead of coming back the third week of January, we’ll probably come back the first week of January and pass the payroll tax and make it retroactive,” he said.

Clyburn just finished his work with the supercommittee, a panel of lawmakers assigned with coming up with $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions by Thanksgiving.

They failed.

Clyburn blamed the failure on Grover Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform whose “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” endorsed by all of the Republicans on the committee, was a major source of disagreement.

“When they took the position that closing tax loopholes would be tantamount to raising taxes, the whole deal was doomed,” Clyburn said. “You’re not going to be able to reach an agreement over that kind of irrationality.”

If Congress does not act, the bill would automatically trigger $1.2 trillion in budget cuts, including about $600 billion in cuts to defense spending. That could impact South Carolina’s military installations at Fort Jackson in Columbia, Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter and McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Columbia — all of which are in Clyburn’s district.

Those cuts are not scheduled to go into effect until January 2013, and Clyburn said lawmakers have plenty of time to reach an agreement.

“Just because the supercommittee fails to reach an agreement, that doesn’t mean Congress has to fail to reach an agreement,” Clyburn said. “As a matter of fact, Congress didn’t need the supercommittee in the first place to do its work.”

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