Dems push for markup of GOP tax bill

House Democrats on Wednesday called on GOP leaders to stage a markup on the Republican tax bill before it hits the floor later this month.

Behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Democrats want a shot at amending the bill in committee — or at least forcing Republicans to take votes on who should get an extension of the George W. Bush-era tax rates.

"The looming expiration of current tax policy deserves a full and fair consideration of alternative approaches, with members of both parties allowed to offer amendments," the Democrats wrote to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). 

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With the Bush-era tax rates set to expire in January, Republicans are pushing legislation to extend the benefit for all incomes. Democrats, on the other hand, want to extend the lower rates only on annual taxable income below $250,000.

The Democrats note that Boehner has vowed to run the House under regular order, which suggests a committee markup would precede bringing legislation to the floor. 

Democrats try to use Boehner’s words against him in the letter, quoting an October 2010 speech where he said: “We have nothing to fear from letting the House work its will — nothing to fear from the battle of ideas." 

"That starts with the committees," Boehner added. "The result will be more scrutiny and better legislation.”

GOP leaders are expected to bring their tax-cut extension bill to the floor just before the August recess, but they have not scheduled a Ways and Means markup beforehand. Republicans say the bill doesn't have to be marked up because it's simply an extension of current policy. Also, they say Democrats will have the chance to offer their alternative on the House floor.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded immediately to the Democrats' letter, saying, “Nothing could be simpler — or more important — than stopping all of the tax hikes that are already hurting our economy. 

"The issues and the stakes," he added, "are well known to everyone.”

Aside from Pelosi, the letter was signed by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means panel.

The Democrats request for a committee markup represents another strategy of forcing votes on competing bills benefiting different income levels. 

"The House Republican position of insisting on an all-or-nothing extension and additional tax breaks to those at the highest income levels has effectively held middle-class tax relief hostage," the Democrats wrote Wednesday.

The proposal targeting only the lower income levels, they added, would "pass the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities and be signed into law without delay."

The Senate is expected to vote on competing versions of the tax bill later in the month.