In a surprising break with the Congressional Black Caucus, Philadelphia Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) released a statement in support of President Barack Obama’s controversial tax cut plan.
The move comes only days after CBC Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) led a press conference announcing that the “overwhelming majority” of the 41-member caucus rejected the Obama tax plan “as it is,” which included an extension of Bush era tax cuts in exchange for a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits and a decrease in the payroll tax.
“There are 73,000 unemployed Philadelphians whose jobless benefits are expiring. Our city’s unemployment rate was 11.2 percent in September, more than a point above the national rate. Almost one in every four residents of the Second Congressional District lives in poverty. Families out of work through no fault of their own are fearing foreclosure on their homes.
Fattah expressed concern that jobless Americans currently in need of benefits would needlessly suffer while Congress is working out the “perfect” plan.
“These Philadelphians need help, here and now. They are waiting for us to act,” said Fattah in a statement issued on Monday. “They cannot wait for the ‘perfect’ solution from an imperfect and divided Washington. President Obama’s proposal to maintain unemployment benefits through 2011 and the soon-to-expire tax cuts though 2012 will provide that help.”
Fattah cited big city Mayors such as Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter, New York’s Michael Bloomberg and Los Angeles’ Antonio Villaigorosa as major names that supported the plan in its current form.
“I have consistently opposed extending the tax cuts for the top 2 per cent and still believe that is not the right choice,” said Fattah. “The reality of the legislative process, and my commitment to working families, compels me to support the framework of this proposal in spite of its imperfections.”
“We need a long term solution to our nation’s debt, which is why I will reintroduce the Debt Free America Act in January. But the issue before us is a short term solution to family budgets, and the President’s plan provides that relief. I will work during the coming weeks in Washington for its enactment,” added Fattah.
Observers see Fattah’s break with the CBC as not only embarrassing for the group only days after it gave the appearance of a unified front against the tax cut deal, but as a shrewd snub of caucus leadership less than a week after they endorsed longtime Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) over Fattah as ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee. Fattah had attempted to buck the Democratic seniority system, first announcing his plan to run as Chair of the committee earlier in the year and then transitioning to the race for ranking member.
A source close to Fattah’s office described the Congressman as “disappointed” by the CBC’s decision to maintain the seniority system by supporting another Member – who happens to be White – over a fellow Caucus Member.
“He’s philosophical about it,” said the source when describing Fattah’s reaction to the endorsement of Dicks.