House Sends Tax-Cut Compromise to President
A massive bipartisan tax package preventing a big New Year’s Day tax hike for millions of Americans is on its way to President Obama for his signature.
The measure would extend tax cuts for families at every income level, renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and enact a new one-year cut in Social Security taxes that would benefit nearly every worker who earns a wage.
In a remarkable show of bipartisanship, the House gave final approval to the measure just before midnight Thursday, overcoming an attempt by rebellious Democrats who wanted to impose a higher estate tax than the one Obama agreed to.
The vote was 277-148, with each party contributing an almost identical number of votes in favor (the Democrats, 139 and the Republicans, 138). Opposed were 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans.
NBC News reported that Obama was set to sign the bill and make a statement on Friday afternoon.
In a rare reach across party lines, Obama negotiated the $858 billion package with Senate Republicans. The White House then spent the past 10 days persuading congressional Democrats to go along, providing a possible blueprint for the next two years, when Republicans will control the House and hold more seats in the Senate.
“There probably is nobody on this floor who likes this bill,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “The judgment is, is it better than doing nothing? Some of the business groups believe it will help. I hope they’re right.”
‘Good for Growth’
Sweeping tax cuts enacted when George W. Bush was president are scheduled to expire Jan. 1 — a little more than two weeks away. The bill extends them for two years, placing the issue squarely in the middle of the next presidential election, in 2012.
The extended tax cuts include lower rates for the rich, the middle class and the working poor, a $1,000-per-child tax credit, tax breaks for college students and lower taxes on capital gains and dividends. The bill also extends through 2011, a series of business tax breaks designed to encourage investment that expired at the end of 2009.
Workers’ Social Security taxes would be cut by nearly a third, going from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, for 2011. A worker making $50,000 in wages would save $1,000; one making $100,000 would save $2,000.
“This legislation is good for growth, good for jobs, good for working and middle class families, and good for businesses looking to invest and expand their work force,” said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Some Democrats complained that the package is too generous to the wealthy; Republicans complained that it doesn’t make all the tax cuts permanent.
Obama talks tax cuts, business investment
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., called it “a bipartisan moment of clarity.”
The bill’s cost, $858 billion, would be added to the deficit, a sore spot among budget hawks in both parties.
“I know that we are going to borrow every nickel in this bill,” Hoyer lamented.
At the insistence of Republicans, the plan includes an estate tax that would allow the first $10 million of a couple’s estate to pass to heirs without taxation. The balance would be subject to a 35 percent tax rate.
Many House Democrats wanted a higher estate tax, one that would allow couples to pass only $7 million tax-free, taxing anything above that amount at a 45 percent rate. They argued that the higher estate tax would affect only 6,600 of the wealthiest estates in 2011 and would save $23 billion over two years.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the estate tax the “most egregious provision” in the bill and held a vote that would have imposed the higher estate tax. It failed, 194 – 233.
No Pelosi vote
On the bill’s final vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not vote; House GOP leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., voted for the bill, and Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-SC, voted against the bill, NBC News reported.
Boehner, after the vote, called the bill’s passage “critically important.”
“Stopping all the tax hikes is a good first step in our efforts to reduce the uncertainty family-owned small businesses are facing, but much more needs to be done, including cutting spending, permanently eliminating the threat of job-killing tax hikes, and repealing the job-killing health care law,” Boehner, House speaker-designate, said in a prepared statement.
House Republicans who will move into powerful posts when the GOP takes control in January urged passage of the bill.
Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, in line to become majority leader, said the measure, while not perfect, marked a “first step” toward economic recovery.
Largely marginalized in the negotiations leading to the bill, Democrats emphasized their unhappiness with Obama.
“We stand today with only one choice: Pay the ransom now or pay more ransom later,” said Rep. Brad Sherman of California. “This is not a place Democrats want to be. But, ultimately, it is better to pay the ransom today than to watch the president pay even more, and I think he’d be willing to pay a bit more next month.”
Source: NBC News and The Associated Press contibuting to msnbc.com, 12/17/10.