How House Dems Might Still Vote On Middle-Class Tax Cuts

Congressional Quarterly/Newscom
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Senate Democrats officially scrapped any and all plans for a pre-election vote on middle-income tax cuts yesterday evening. And for the entirety of the tax cut debate, House Dems have said they will take action only after the Senate takes care of business. So that’s it, right? No vote, no way.

There’s still one way it could happen, and House aides stress that — as unlikely as a vote may seem right now — no official final decision has been made. That decision will likely come early next week.

If it does happen, it would proceed mostly as outlined here. Pelosi would put a middle-income-only tax cut bill on the floor under “suspension,” which would require a two-thirds majority for passage, but would limit GOP procedural hijinx. If Republicans object, they will be forced to vote down middle-income tax cuts and face the wrath of voters.What of those pesky Democrats who largely agree with Republicans that all the Bush tax cuts — including for the wealthiest Americans — should be extended? There are a few ideas out there to assuage them. The one with the most currency, according to two House aides, comes from Reps. Michael Capuano (D-MA) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). They’re rounding up signatures on a letter obtained by TPM offering Pelosi, and Minority Leader John Boehner a compromise.

“The following proposal is one of the many that might satisfy more Members than either of the two currently on the table,” they write.

▪ A five year extension of the current middle class rates for individuals making under $200,000 and families making under $250,000 annually.
▪ A five year extension of the current rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends.
▪ A one year extension of the higher rates only for individuals and joint filers making under $500,000 annually.

Republicans have been adamant that tax rates stay the same on all income levels, so it’s hard to see them biting, particularly with members set to return to their districts on Thursday. But these are the options on the table.

You can read the entire letter below.

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

The Honorable John Boehner

Dear Madam Speaker and Minority Leader Boehner:

It is imperative that the House of Representatives be given a chance to vote on the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the middle class before we adjourn.

There is near universal and bipartisan agreement to extend middle class tax cuts (for individuals making under $200,000 and families $250,000). There is also agreement that we should extend the investment portion of the current tax code. This is critical to address the elephant in the room–the uncertainty the business community is facing in its fiscal planning for the future.

Unfortunately, the passage of an extension of these tax cuts have been stalled by the discussion of whether to extend the higher rates (individuals making over $200,000 and joint filers making over $250,000). However, this choice should not kill the entire tax agenda, which is critical for the middle class.

To reiterate, it is vital that we take a vote on extending middle class tax cuts within a larger tax package. We should work with all sides in the House of Representatives to achieve a solution centered on middle class tax cuts.

We refuse to accept that Congress cannot find common ground amongst our Members.

We are willing to work to find it.

For example, the following proposal is one of the many that might satisfy more Members than either of the two currently on the table:

▪ A five year extension of the current middle class rates for individuals making under $200,000 and families making under $250,000 annually.
▪ A five year extension of the current rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends.
▪ A one year extension of the higher rates only for individuals and joint filers making under $500,000 annually.

This proposal should be seen as a foundation on which to build a plan that can be supported by a majority of the House of Representatives. It is crucial that middle class tax cuts are at the center of any agreement and that we take a vote on this measure before we adjourn.

Sincerely

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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