House sets pre-August recess vote on Bush tax rate extension

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday that the House would vote the week of July 30 on legislation to extend the Bush-era tax levels. 

The vote will be on extending the Bush rates for another year, and would come just before lawmakers leave for the August recess. 

"We have scheduled for that week a vote on a bill to extend the existing rates," Cantor said Thursday on the House floor, during a discussion with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). "That extension will be for a year.

"We will also be bringing up a bill that will outline the principles for tax reform," Cantor added. He said this bill would be aimed at simplifying the tax code.

The planned vote gives House Republicans a chance to show their opposition to President Obama's proposal only to extend current tax levels for families making less than $250,000 a year. Since Obama made that proposal, Republicans have said Congress should oppose any tax hike for people at any income level while the economy is still on shaky ground.

The Senate might also hold a tax vote. Democratic and Republican leaders in the upper chamber in recent days have battled over how to handle a possible vote, with each siding seeking a political advantage.

During their dicussion on the House floor, Hoyer pressed Cantor on whether Republicans would allow consideration of an amendment to the bill that reflects Obama's proposal, either in the House Ways and Means Committee or on the House floor. But Cantor indicated that there would be no committee markup.

"There has been enough discussion, enough hearings, in the Ways and Means Committee, as well as the Budget Committee," Cantor said.

He also said the only chance Democrats would have to amend the bill would be in a motion to recommit the bill, just before a final vote. These motions brought by the majority always fail, and Hoyer said he is disappointed that the GOP would not allow for more serious consideration of a Democratic alternative.

But Cantor said Democrats should use the motion to recommit to call on members to vote for Obama's plan.

"We'll see … if the gentleman decides to put forward the president's tax proposal calling for a tax hike on America's small businesses," Cantor said. Hoyer said Democrats would have to consider bringing up Obama's plan, but rejected the idea that this would be a "real vote" on Obama's proposal.

"If the motion to recommit is the only option we have available, we are certainly going to discuss that option," he said. "But we're not going to pretend, either to ourselves or to the American people, that's a real vote."

Cantor added that next week, the House would be taking up H.R. 5856, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Also up next week is a bill that would require the administration to be transparent as it makes its decisions about how to chop spending under the so-called sequester.

The Sequestration Transparency Act, H.R. 5872, is sponsored by House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas), and Cantor said he is hopeful the House can pass it under a suspension of the rules next week.

"This is a bill that will bring needed transparency to the administration's process for implementing devastating cuts to our national defense and many social programs on Jan. 2," Cantor said. "Chairman Paul Ryan in the Budget Committee passed this bill in a bipartisan fashion, so I expected it will be brought up under a suspension of the rules."

As they often do, Cantor and Hoyer squabbled a little over the productiveness of the House. Hoyer criticized Republicans for voting again this week to repeal the 2010 healthcare law, which Democrats say will go nowhere.

But Cantor said the GOP takes up healthcare so much because it is a critical issue for most Americans.

"The reason why perhaps we spend so much time on that issue — it is the most personal issue to many millions of Americans," he said. "It's their healthcare, it's their families' healthcare."

More in Senate

Wednesday: Tax extenders, nominations

Read more »