Press Release

December 23, 2011
Maryland lawmakers named to conference committee

Maryland’s congressional delegation will have unusual influence in helping to resolve big issues left hanging on Capitol Hill, because two of the state’s lawmakers were appointed Friday to help sort out differences between House and Senate legislation.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats, were appointed to the conference committee that is charged with finding a compromise on a one-year extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, along with a continuation of the current rate that Medicare pays to doctors.

Now it’s time to get to work to make sure that we extend the payroll tax cut for the full year,” Van Hollen said Friday on Capitol Hill.

Cardin said in a statement, “I look forward to working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to find a common path. … In such a fragile economy, every dollar helps make ends meet for so many families.”

The payroll tax cut is worth about $40 per biweekly paycheck for the average family, or about $1,000 a year.

Congress passed a short-term extension of the policies Friday after weeks of partisan wrangling. The deal keeps Social Security payroll taxes at current levels for an additional two months, maintains unemployment benefits for people who have been jobless for an extended period and blocks a cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

The conference committee’s assignment is likely to be a tough one. The same political divisions that made finding a long-term agreement on the issues so elusive will still be a factor next year. And this time negotiations will take place in the middle of the contest for the Republican presidential nomination.

Lawmakers in both parties have said they generally support the policies, but there has been sharp disagreement over how to pay for them. Democrats had originally suggested a surtax on income over $1 million, while Republicans have sought a series of spending cuts, including an extended pay freeze for federal employees.