Hoyer sees 'some room' to amend tax package in House

A top House Democrat said Monday there's room to revise the contentious tax-cut package hammered out between the White House and Senate Republicans.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted the House would ultimately pass a tax-cut bill this month, but not before Democratic critics have had a chance to amend certain language — particularly a 35 percent estate tax provision that exempts the first $5 million of estates.

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"There certainly seems to me to be some room for a change which may or may not be perceived by some to be significant," Hoyer told reporters at the National Press Club.

House Democrats prefer a 45 percent tax exempting the first $3.5 million of inherited estates.

The Senate has scheduled a cloture vote Monday on the tax-cut compromise, which also temporarily extends all the Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits. The proposal is expected to pass the upper chamber Tuesday or Wednesday, leaving the House to consider it later in the week.

On Sunday, senior White House adviser David Axelrod said the administration doesn't expect the House to make significant changes to the controversial package.

"We have a framework, we have an agreement, and I don't anticipate that it's going to change greatly," he told ABC's "This Week."

The comment is a concession that Senate Republicans likely won't accept major deviations from the existing deal.

Hoyer said Monday the fight could come down to one of semantics.

"The issue there is, 'What is significant?' " Hoyer said.

Members of both the Rules and Ways and Means panels will take a look at the Senate bill when it comes over to the House, Hoyer said, predicting that something will pass before year’s end.

"I think we're going to have a vote on the Senate bill, with possible changes," Hoyer said. "We may have it with amendments, we'll see what the process is. … I think we will pass a bill."

Hoyer said leaders in both the House and Senate are still shooting to adjourn for the year by Dec. 18. With a number of items left to be done, however, there's also a good possibility the calendar will extend into next week.