House tax vote could be delayed

A final House vote on President Obama’s tax proposal could be delayed after Democratic leaders were forced to pull a procedural measure off the House floor Thursday.

The House was set to vote on the rule governing debate on the broad tax bill, but the measure was withdrawn at the last minute when leaders realized it was likely to be rejected. Liberals opposed to the deal Obama struck with Republicans were upset that the procedure approved by the House Rules Committee on Wednesday did not allow them a clean opportunity to vote on the legislation the Senate passed on Wednesday. A final vote on the tax deal had been planned for Thursday evening.

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House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said no plan has been finalized, but Democrats are eyeing a strategy of voting separately on an amendment hiking the estate tax rate proposed in the Senate-passed bill. The initial House rule wrapped that amendment into the larger bill.

"We don't have a timeline," Slaughter said.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a Rules Committee member and floor manager for the tax bill told reporters that Democrats are "just trying to work out some kinks."

He characterized the decision to pull the procedural measure off the floor as “a bump” and said he did not think the House would have to delay a final vote past Thursday. Yet, he said it was unclear what the next move was, and that Democratic leaders were huddling over how to proceed.

McGovern added: “This is a bump. I think it’ll be taken care of.”

The delay underscored the fraught politics of the tax compromise, which has angered and divided House Democrats.


Under the rule approved Wednesday, lawmakers would first vote on an amendment to the estate tax provision of the tax bill, which Democratic leaders want raised to a higher level. If that measure passed, the entire tax bill would return to the Senate, meaning lawmakers would have, in effect, approved the underlying measure with the single change to the estate tax. Liberals objected to that procedure, saying they wanted an opportunity to reject the entire bill, not just the estate tax provision.

If the estate tax amendment failed — which is expected — then the House would vote on the underlying Senate bill.

Republicans in the Senate have vowed to oppose changes to the legislation, and House aides predict the legislation will ultimately pass unamended, but the drama on the floor has thrown the outcome temporarily in doubt.

Mike Lillis contributed to this article, which was updated at 2:22 p.m.