News Column

Rep. Cantor Leads Nays

Jan. 1, 2013
Eric Cantor

The "fiscal cliff" deal passed in the Senate struck strong opposition among U.S. House Republicans Tuesday, clouding prospects for immediate passage.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., after a behind doors meeting with fellow Republicans, said he opposed the Senate legislation, which lets taxes rise on upper income households, The Washington Post reported.

Canter forcefully expressed his opposition behind closed doors, and other Republicans did the same, the report said.

The Post said Cantor's opposition probably derails any fast House passage of the Senate bill without amendments. But the Senate is in recess, and the current Congress ends Thursday.

Earlier Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner wrangled support for a vote on a fiscal cliff compromise in the face of mounting Republican opposition.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the measure will add nearly $4 trillion to the U.S. debt in the next 10 years because of lost revenue or payments on refundable tax credits, Politico reported.

"There's not a lot of support for the bill as is. I personally hate it," Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., told The New York Times. "The speaker the day after the election said we would give on taxes, and we have, but we wanted spending cuts. This bill has spending increases. Are you kidding me?"

Biden met with House Democrats, the Los Angeles Times reported. Some liberal groups have been calling on them to reject the compromise on the grounds that the threshold for tax increases is too high.

"It is clear that the vice president and the president are convinced that they have done the right thing. They don't see it as a perfect deal though, and nobody else does," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told The New York Times.

Boehner, R-Ohio, has about 100 reliable votes among the 241 members of the Republican caucus, The Hill said. He is hoping to get a majority of Republicans to support the bill.

The Senate compromise would extend current tax rates for the middle class and delay automatic spending cuts. There were 10 minutes of floor debate and no scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, The Hill said.

The deal hammered out by Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would permanently extend tax rates lowered during President George W. Bush's administration on individual income up to $400,000 and family income up to $450,000. The lower Bush-era tax rates for higher incomes would expire and return to the higher rates in effect during President Bill Clinton's administration.

It also would permanently set the estate tax rate at 40 percent, an increase from 35 percent, and would exempt inheritances of less than $5 million, The Hill said. It would postpone the automatic spending cuts for two months and offset the delay's $24 billion cost with a combination of spending cuts and new revenues. The measure also would extend unemployment benefits for one year without offsetting their impact on the deficit and prevent a hike in congressional pay.

"Leaders from both parties in the Senate came together to reach an agreement that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support today that protects 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small business owners from a middle class tax hike," President Obama said in a statement. "While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay."

On the Senate floor, McConnell, R-Ky., said every senator could spend time discussing the perfect solution, "but the end result would have been the largest tax increase in American history," Politico reported.

"The president wanted tax increases, but thanks to this imperfect agreement, 99 percent of my constituents won't be hit by those hikes," he said. "So it took an imperfect solution to prevent our constituents from very real financial pain. But in my view, it was worth the effort."

Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Tom Carper of Delaware and Tom Harkin of Iowa voted against the bill, as did Republicans Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Richard Shelby of Alabama.

Absent and not voting were Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

"This historic vote protects working families from an income tax increase and spares our economy from a devastating political disaster," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., assistant majority leader said. "We now turn to the House and ask them to act with dispatch to prove our government can truly respond in a bipartisan way in the best interests of the people we represent."

The House Rules Committee already waived the 3-day review requirement, setting the stage for a New Year's Day vote. But The Hill said it was unclear if the House would take up the bill before Thursday, when the 113th Congress will be sworn in.

"The House will honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement if it is passed," Boehner said. "Decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members -- and the American people -- have been able to review the legislation."

"I don't see any balance yet, that's the fundamental problem," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told The Hill. "If you don't cut spending, there's no way you're going to pick up Republican votes."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was non-committal publicly but signed off the deal in private, a source familiar with discussions told The Hill.

"I understand at the present time, Senate Democrats are meeting with the vice president," Pelosi said in a statement. "When a final agreement is reached and passed by the Senate, I will present it to the House Democratic Caucus."

The bill also would:

-- Extend by five years the college tuition tax credit, the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit.

-- Set the capital gains and dividends tax rate at 20 percent, up from 15 percent.

-- Reinstate the Clinton-era limit on itemized deductions for individuals earning more than $250,000 and families earning more than $300,000.

-- Permanently patch the Alternative Minimum Tax and extend a number of expiring business and energy tax provisions for a year.

-- Freeze scheduled cuts to doctors' Medicare payments for one year, paying for them with spending cuts in other healthcare spending

-- Extend by a year the 2008 farm bill without dairy reforms.

"There is a feeling ... that it's not that this proposal is regarded as great or is loved, in any way, but it's a lot better than going over the cliff," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

Conservative and liberal advocacy groups and unions both blasted the bill, The Hill said.

"To be clear, this is a tax increase," Heritage Action for America, a conservative advocacy group, said in a statement while urging lawmakers to oppose the deal.

Liberal groups and unions complained the White House and Democrats were ceding too much, particularly given that Obama pledged during the campaign to raise tax rates on households with annual income of more than $250,000.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013

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