House Democratic leaders have settled on a strategy to try to quell rebellion in their ranks that has stalled their plans to bring a tax cut bill to the floor.
Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) outlined Democrats’ newest plan for bringing the tax package to the floor for reporters as she left a meeting Thursday night in the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). The new approach could put the House on the path to a final vote after midnight.
A revolt among liberal Members forced Democratic leaders earlier Thursday to pull the rule for floor consideration of the $858 billion tax measure moments before it was to be put for a vote. The liberals support swapping House-passed estate tax language for the chamber’s current language, but they objected to a procedure that would have also effectively forced them to back the underlying tax measure in order to make the change.
The meltdown left the House in limbo for most of the afternoon.
Slaughter said she would go to the floor shortly to ask permission to amend the rule so that it would allow for a separate, up-or-down vote on the package if the vote to swap in the House’s estate tax language prevails. The original version of the rule would have sent the measure directly back to the Senate if the new estate tax language was adopted without a separate vote. That tactic would have avoided allowing opponents to vote against the underlying bill.
“Nothing’s really that much different,” Slaughter said. “We’re going to put an extra vote in.”
No other changes would be made to the rule, she added.
A group of liberal lawmakers who included Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.) huddled with Democratic leaders Thursday evening to make a pitch for changing the rule to allow the extra vote.
Weiner said the lawmakers agreed to let Members vote.
“It’s going to happen quickly,” Weiner said. “It’s going to happen tonight.”
But it seemed as though not everyone was satisfied with the new arrangement. Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) emerged from Pelosi’s office with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and indicated that she was not happy with the agreement brokered inside.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who planned to help lead the fight against the bill on the floor, said he and other liberals petitioned House leaders to allow them to offer a broader amendment. In addition to swapping the estate tax language, it would have allowed tax cuts to expire for incomes over $1 million, substituted the Making Work Pay tax credit for the payroll tax deduction and provided a one-time $250 payment to Social Security beneficiaries.
“We were arguing very aggressively that our amendment represents relief from the major problems in that bill as seen by most of the Democratic Caucus,” Welch said.
Welch said leaders gave the liberals a “full hearing” Thursday night, but they opted not to allow the amendment, likely for fear that it could implode the entire package.
“I think one of the problems is they were concerned about moving forward and whether considering a new amendment, including ours, would get in the way of moving forward,” he said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.