Senate Panel Passes Tax Bill, Rare Bipartisan Unity
Senate tax writers approved a $205 billion package of tax breaks in a rare show of bipartisan unity on Thursday, but across Capitol Hill in the House of Representatives, sniping over taxes between Democrats and Republicans was in full force.
Hours before leaving for a five-week break, the Senate Finance Committee passed legislation including a $15 billion business research tax break. It also contained a $132 billion provision to prevent the alternative minimum tax, targeted primarily at the rich, from hitting the middle class.
“This is a strong sign that we mean business,” said Republican Senator Pat Roberts who voted for the legislation, that passed 19-5 in a committee hearing filled with mutual praise.
The bill would need to be substantially changed, however, to stand a chance of winning approval in the more partisan House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a big majority.
There, while senators praised one another, the usual bickering was in high-gear during the debate over a Republican effort to “fast track” tax reform with a bill that would slash the top income tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent and impose other changes that are anathemas to Democrats.
Democratic Representative Barney Frank said the bill would give too much power to Republican Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp, and criticized its specificity on tax cuts and vagueness on paying for them without bloating the deficit.
Camp will “single-handedly put on his cape and fly down here with this bill that will help the rich and do some unmentioned things regarding popular tax breaks that they don’t want to mention,” Frank said in his typically blunt style.
The House bill would set up procedures to let lawmakers move quickly to revamp the tax code in 2013. It was seen as likely to pass the House along largely party lines later on Thursday.