Legislation to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts was introduced in the Senate on Thursday evening, as Democrats reluctantly signed off on a deal brokered by President Barack Obama and Congressional Republican leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on a motion to cut off debate and scheduled a vote on that motion for 3 p.m. Monday, which could clear the way for Members to leave town for the weekend. Passage of the legislation in the Senate appears likely, but it remains unclear whether a sufficient number of House Democrats will climb on board to clear it.
Upon introducing the measure, Reid employed a procedural maneuver known as “filling the tree” to prevent any amendments from being filed against the bill. The maneuver was meant to protect the bill from poisonous additions that could sink it and to ensure that the measure clears the chamber as is.
Not everyone was happy.
“It is, in my view, a bad deal,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on the Senate floor following the bill’s introduction. “I think we can do better.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also expressed disappointment. Before some procedural votes that cleared the way for the legislation to be formally introduced, Reid could be seen arguing with Brown on the Senate floor.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more,” an exasperated Reid could be overheard telling a visibly frustrated Brown. “It’s the best I could do.”
The $800 billion legislation included some tweaks but leaves the major components of the original agreement largely intact, including extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all income brackets for two years and setting the estate tax at 35 percent with a $5 million exemption. Both were GOP priorities.
The bill also includes a 13-month extension of unemployment insurance sought by Democrats and an extension of the ethanol tax credit that has the support of Members on both sides of the aisle. There appears to be only minimal Republican opposition to the deal, with a senior GOP Senate aide confirming that the GOP Conference is pleased with the legislation as introduced.
Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and incoming House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) lauded the bill in separate written statements that were delivered to reporters as a joint news release.
“This agreement does two things the economy needs: prevents a tax increase on all Americans who pay income taxes and provides a foundation for job creation,” Camp said.
“Continued tax relief gives people the ability to keep more of their money to use as they see fit, whether it’s buying groceries or investing in their small business,” Grassley added.
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