Trade groups call for open debate on continuing Bush tax cuts


"We firmly believe that the Senate must consider these issues under the regular order of Committee hearings and markups, followed by floor considerations by the full Senate if the Committee reports a bill, with open debate and a fair and inclusive amendment process," the letter states. "That is the only way to ensure that these critically important policies — policies with as broad an impact as anything the Senate has considered or is likely to consider this year — are fully and fairly debated."

The Senate is expected to take the lead on determining the fate of the Bush tax cuts, and debate on the issue is expected to heat up after the August recess.

The concern is, once debate begins, Democratic leaders will decide the fate of these tax cuts behind closed doors and not give interested parties a say on the matter. 

"All too often during this Congress the Senate has considered legislation using procedures that deny full participation of all senators in the formulation of policy," the letter states. "The Leader [Reid] has repeatedly brought bills directly to the floor bypassing Committee consideration, immediately filled the amendment tree to short-circuit the amendment process, and then filed cloture on the legislation."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) engaged in this process 35 times this year, according to the letter, which is more than the last five Senate leaders combined.

"This process does a grave disservice to the historical and Constitutional role of the Senate," the letter states, adding, "this closed-door process of filling the amendment tree effectively disenfranchises 99 senators — and the constituents of 49 states — by permitting amendments go be offered only by the Leader."

The Tax Relief Coalition spearheaded the letter and supports extending all of the Bush tax cuts, which are slated to expire at the end of the year. 

The group also used the letter to bash lawmakers for actions that it claims have threatened the economic recovery. 

"[The] decisions that [businesses] need to be making now to help revive the economy —decisions to invest capital, expand their businesses and hire new workers — have been put on 'hold' in large measure as a result of the anti-business rhetoric and threatened tax hikes confronting them from Washington," the letter states. "Businesses facing the uncertainty of rising taxes simply cannot risk expending capital today to expand, invest or hire." 

Economic uncertainty has prompted senators from both parties to call for at least a temporary extension of all the Bush tax cuts. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told The Hill before the August break that talks in the Senate were focused on continuing all of the breaks through 2011. 

The move would add approximately $40 billion to the deficit beyond what it would cost to extend the Bush tax cuts for just the middle class.