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July 29, 2014

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Democrats plan vote on extension of tax cuts

There’s still no resolution on the tax cuts — but Democrats in the House of Representatives have decided they’re tired of waiting.

House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Wednesday that the House would vote on an extension of tax cuts on the first $250,000 of income per household on Thursday, a move that will either force Republicans to cast a vote against tax cuts for the middle class or split the tax debate into two parts.

Democrats and Republicans have been bickering for months about whether to pass a full extension of the tax cuts adopted under President George W. Bush for just the middle class, as Obama wants, or for individuals at all income levels, as GOP leaders have demanded.

Hoyer said that creates common ground.

“I would like to see the House have a crack at voting on what I think we have a consensus on,” Hoyer said. “I don’t know of anybody in the House of Representatives next year who wants to see middle income, working Americans get an increase.”

By splintering off a vote on their preferred set of tax extensions, Democrats could also pair the question of extending tax cuts for wealthier Americans with an extension of unemployment benefits, which expired yesterday.

But Republicans in the House have accused Hoyer of staging political theater that is only going to delay a real solution to the expiring tax cuts.

“This vote is a Washington stalling tactic,” said Speaker-elect John Boehner. “If the lame-duck Congress is unwilling to cut spending and permanently stop all the tax hikes, the new House majority will act in January.”

Hoyer says he against the idea of horse-trading with unemployment benefits. But that’s just one of the many compromise proposals that have been floating through Washington in recent weeks.

Since the election, Democrats have been putting forward several proposals to try to peel enough Republicans away from the GOP’s all-or-nothing stance to support a vote, including an extension for the first million dollars of income, or a temporary extension of the full tax plan. Yesterday, leaders of both parties met with the President, and emerged with an agreement to assign a quartet of lawmakers: Max Baucus for the Senate Democrats, Jon Kyl for the Senate Republicans, Chris Van Hollen for the House Dems, and Dave Camp for the House GOP -- to meet with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and outgoing National Economic Council director Larry Summers about a way forward on taxes.

But those negotiations could take weeks, and with tax rates set to rise on all Americans on January 1, Dems are saying they don’t have time to wait.

It’s not yet clear if the Senate would follow suit. Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that a vote on the $250,000 tax cuts was “extremely important”, but he has not announced plans to split the tax vote in a similar fashion.

But in the Senate, GOP members have promised they will block any measures not tackling either a full extension of tax cuts or addressing the federal budget.

The House votes today on approving a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 18.

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