Boehner: House to vote next week on Senate Democratic tax bill

House Democrats will have a chance next week to vote on the Senate-passed middle-class tax bill, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Thursday.  

Boehner said the House would vote on the Democratic bill alongside a measure that would extend the entire slate of George W. Bush-era tax rates. 

“If our Democrat colleagues want to offer the president’s plan or the Senate Democrat plan, we’re more than happy to give them the vote,” Boehner said during his weekly Capitol press conference.

Senate Democrats succeeded Wednesday in passing a bill that extends tax rates on family income up to $250,000 a year.

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The GOP leadership has previously said Democrats would be allowed a vote in the House, but Democrats were concerned it would only come as part of a procedural maneuver. But Boehner said the minority would be allowed to offer alternative plans as amendments.

“We’ll see what they’ll offer in the Rules Committee, but it’s our belief that they ought to be able to have the vote,” he said.

The Senate bill is not expected to pass, given that the Republican majority is united behind approving a full one-year extension of the Bush rates, including those for income above $250,000.

President Obama and Democratic leaders have argued that Congress should simply approve an extension for the middle class, since there is near-universal agreement on keeping those rates for another year. Republicans, however, have labeled the proposal a “small-business tax hike” and say taxes should not be raised on anyone in a struggling economy.

Moments before Boehner met the press on Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said House Republicans are the only remaining obstacle to a tax-cut extension that would benefit everyone in the country.

"We all agree that that's a good idea," Pelosi said. "The only thing standing in the way of a middle-class tax cut is the House Republicans."

The California Democrat called on GOP leaders to bring the measure to the floor immediately, saying the House could pass the measure "today."

"We absolutely must do it, though, before we leave for the August break," she added.

The top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), said Thursday that Democrats have decided to back the Senate plan “full-scale, full-bore.”

The Senate bill places a top rate of 20 percent on dividends, significantly lower than what the president has called for.

Senate Democrats also dropped an estate tax provision, favored by the president, which would return the estate tax to 2009 levels. Without congressional action, the estate tax will return to less generous parameters than either Obama or congressional Republicans have proposed.

On Thursday, Senate Democrats continued to call on Republicans to pass their bill, saying they had already proven that the GOP plan wouldn’t make it through the Senate.

“We didn’t have to twist arms,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said about getting the Democratic bill through the Senate.

Party leaders also argued that, after decades of work, they had finally succeeded in turning tax cuts for the middle class and relief for the wealthy into different conversations altogether — something they said would give them an advantage in both the lame-duck session of Congress and for tax battles further down the road.

Republicans, Schumer added, have “been counting on Democrats to eventually bow to their traditional upper hand on the tax issue. But yesterday’s vote shows the politics on taxes have finally turned against the Republicans.”

Bernie Becker and Mike Lillis contributed.