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Members Say Taxes Favor Rich

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Jay Rockefeller isn’t concerned that he would have to pay a proposed surtax on income of more than $1 million.

Regardless of their belief that they may not be paying their fair share into federal coffers, Republicans said Obama's Buffett Rule is an effort to score political points and help win re-election rather than engage in a constructive dialogue.

"So basically it's the president baiting people to be envious and to stick it to the rich," Issa said. "Is that the worst of the worst in politics? It's pretty close."

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) proposed that Obama's $447 billion jobs package be paid for with a 5.6 percent surtax on anyone with an income of more than $1 million, regardless of the source. The move gives Democrats a poll-tested package that most can run on for the next year even though the surtax itself is political poison with Republicans.

"Of course," Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said, when asked whether he'd be affected by the new millionaire surtax. "What you have to understand is that there is a large majority of the wealthy and the very wealthy in this country who want to pay more taxes. Poll them." Rockefeller ranks fourth richest on Roll Call's list.

At least 18 of the wealthiest 50 lawmakers, including the 12 potentially affected by the Buffett rule, would have been hit by this millionaires' tax if it had been in place for the 2010 tax year, according to financial disclosures. The six additional lawmakers are Rockefeller and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) as well as Reps. Rick Berg (R-N.D.)and Michael McCaul (R-Texas). McCaul tops Roll Call's list this year as the richest Member of Congress.

Johnson, who ranks 41st with more than $8 million in net worth, said the Democrats' plan was unfair. "The fact that a few high income earners pay a lower effective rate by utilizing existing tax law should not drive the enactment of punitive tax increases on the most productive members of our society," Johnson said in a statement. "It should drive significant tax reform that simplifies the code and lowers marginal rates. The goal of any tax reform should be a system that collects the necessary revenue while minimizing economic harm and uneconomic activity."

Democrats argue that the taxes should increase for the wealthy because federal spending has been cut as a result of Republican pressure to reduce the deficit. They contend that cutting further will hurt programs that help the poor and unemployed, which are needed now more than ever because of the high unemployment rate, which remained at 9.1 percent in September.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke "is saying we've got to take action, but he's saying don't make it too steep because of the problems out there" and because of weak economic growth, said Feinstein, whose minimum net worth is $45 million. "The only way you can take action and pay for the package is with some revenues. There are a lot of deductions that people can take, and I think the surcharge is fine."

In April, a deal to fund the remainder of fiscal 2011 was reached only after Democrats agreed to cut about $30 billion from fiscal 2010 spending levels. A deal to raise the debt ceiling reached in August sliced $900 billion in discretionary spending over 10 years and charged the new Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction with finding at least $1.2 trillion more in deficit reduction.

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