Dear Fellow Nevadan,
Over the past few weeks, I am proud to have led the Senate in passing two important pieces of bipartisan legislation. The first is the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which extends the temporary payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits for those out of work through no fault of their own, and reimbursement rates for doctors under Medicare so that seniors continue to have access to their doctors through the end of the year. The second is the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, a long-term compromise that will keep the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) running and hundreds of thousands of Americans working.
In December of last year as we approached the holiday season, you may remember a disagreement that broke out between Republicans and Democrats on extending the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits and seniors access to healthcare. After much back and forth, we were able to come to a bipartisan agreement that would extend these important policies, but only until the end of February. Throughout these debates, I had always insisted on a year-long extension of these policies because it is critical we protect middle class families and seniors as our economy continues to recover. So I got to work, and urged my colleagues to work quickly to forge year-long extensions.
I am pleased to report that were able to agree on year-long extensions of these important policies and on February 17th, the Senate approved the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act. The bill extends through the end of 2012 the two percentage point reduction in the payroll tax on up to $100,100 of wages. What this means is, 1.2 million Nevadans will see about $1,000 in extra take-home pay this year. The legislation also extends unemployment benefits. I fought to prevent Republicans from making extreme cuts to unemployment benefits in hard-hit states like Nevada that need assistance as our economy continues to recover. And it fixes doctors payment rates under Medicare for the rest of the year to guarantee that seniors’ ability to see their doctors will not be unnecessarily interrupted. President Obama is expected to sign this legislation into law in the coming days.
The bipartisan FAA agreement that the Senate passed on February 6th will create or save more than 280,000 jobs while bringing our nation’s air-travel infrastructure into the 21st century. It is important to underscore that this measure was a compromise: no one on either side of the aisle got everything they wanted. However, after 23 short-term extensions of the FAA dating back to 2007, this four-year agreement protects American jobs and the rights of workers, while avoiding another FAA shutdown. This bill, which President Obama signed into law on February 14th, will also modernize our air traffic control system by finally transitioning many airports from World War II-era technology to cutting-edge, GPS navigation. For states like Nevada, which depend on tourism, this bill is vital. Altogether, this legislation protects passengers by reducing delays, making our skies safer and making airlines more fuel-efficient, while saving hundreds of thousands of jobs, including thousands of construction workers, many of which will be in Nevada.
Passing the FAA and payroll tax agreements in the Senate were important steps in the right direction. This is what the American people expect their elected officials to do, and I hope we can continue to move forward in this spirit of bipartisanship in the months ahead.
U.S. Senator for Nevada