Obama tax deal gets nod from Senate. Will House risk making changes?
Senators vote to end debate on GOP-Obama tax deal, clearing the way for its passage. Attention now shifts to the House, where liberal Democrats are expected to discuss revisions.
In a break with gridlock, the Senate voted 83 to 15 Monday to move ahead with a bipartisan deal – first proposed by President Obama and Republican leaders – on extending the Bush tax cuts for two years, including for those in the top income brackets.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The $858 billion measure – which also extends unemployment benefits for 13 months, gives a one-year reduction in Social Security payroll taxes, curbs the alternative minimum tax, and exempts estates up to $5 million from the estate tax – is now on track to pass the Senate early this week.
But it must also clear the House, where the majority Democratic caucus last week declared strong opposition to elements of the package, especially the unexpected fix for the estate tax, now set to revive next year. Instead of the pre-Bush era 55 percent rate for estates valued at over $1 million, the deal proposes a 35 percent rate for estates over $5 million.
While the rift between liberal Democrats and President Obama over the compromise deal has led to heated exchanges, analysts suggest the deal’s popularity with the public will make it difficult for critics to block passage in the House.
Mr. Obama praised the vote Monday as proof that “both parties can, in fact, work together to grow our economy and look out for the American people.” In brief remarks during the Senate vote, he called on the House to act quickly to pass the package in the interest of growing the economy and creating jobs.
Much of the criticism of the deal in both houses of Congress has come from liberal Democrats, who see tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans as a violation of campaign pledges to focus tax relief on the middle class.
In the Senate, Bernard Sanders (I) of Vermont held the floor for more than eight hours on Friday in opposition to the bill. At issue, he said, is “whether we continue the process by which the richest people in this country become richer, at a time when we have the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth.”
Nine Democrats – but none of the top Democratic leaders – joined Sanders in opposing Monday’s procedural vote on the tax deal. These included: Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Carl Levin of Michigan, and Mark Udall of Colorado.