US Senate nears key vote on Obama tax package
The Democratic-led Congress moved on Monday toward grudging approval of President Barack Obama’s deal with Republicans to extend expiring tax cuts, even for the wealthiest Americans.
Backers were expected to muster on Monday the needed 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to clear a procedural hurdle, before passage on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The bill would then go to the House of Representatives for likely passage — despite complaints from many Democrats that Obama conceded too much to Republicans.
The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, said Democrats should “eat their spinach” and accept a deal because their influence will plummet when the new Congress convenes next month.
Republicans won control of the House and made gains in the Senate in November 2 congressional elections.
“It is the only stimulus we can bring to this economy,” Durbin said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday.
Proponents note that the $856 billion package also extends jobless benefits and provides other tax breaks aimed at lower-income families, and would renew a wide array of subsidies and breaks for businesses and renewable energy.
The deal would extend all tax cuts passed under the Republican administration of President George W. Bush, including those for wealthier Americans, that are set to expire on January 1.
Democrats had hoped to allow tax rates to rise for the wealthiest 2 percent of U.S. households to avoid increasing the country’s record-high deficit.
Democrats are particularly angry that Obama agreed to what they see as an excessively generous inheritance tax exemption on wealthy estates.
But Representative Chris Van Hollen, a member of the House Democratic leadership, said, “We’re not going to hold this thing up at the end of the day.”
Van Hollen, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” indicated that Democrats would like to get a separate vote on the inheritance tax, a provision that he said would cost $25 billion for just 6,600 people.
“That doesn’t help the economy,” Van Hollen said. “It hurts the deficit.”
White House adviser David Axelrod said he believed the House would approve the package without significant changes.
“We believe that when it comes back to the House that we will get a vote and it will prevail there,” Axelrod said on CNN.
The Senate began debate on Thursday on a slightly reworked version of the president’s plan, adding, for example, incentives for renewable energy.
Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” likened Republicans to political thugs in blocking an extension of tax cuts for the middle income unless they are also renewed for the rich.
“I think the alternative is to say we’re not going to submit to that blackmail and let the president and the Democrats go to the people, who the polls show want the upper-end tax cuts not to continue but want the middle-class tax cuts, and say, don’t submit to the blackmail,” Nadler said.