Republicans 'appalled' as Dems try to renew expiring tax breaks

Senate Republicans turned aside a Democratic attempt to extend a collection of expiring tax breaks on Wednesday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had tried to extend the 55 provisions — set to expire on Dec. 31 — for another year by unanimous consent.

But Republicans on the Senate floor objected, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) accusing Democrats of trying to bypass the Finance Committee to push through the so-called tax extenders.

“Not just too long ago, the two parties actually functioned on issues like the majority leader was trying to ram through today without any committee consideration,” McConnell said.

McConnell and Hatch, the top Republican at Finance, added that the maneuver on extenders was par for the course, given how Reid and the Democrats had invoked the “nuclear option” to allow nominees from the president to proceed with a majority vote.

“They want to ignore the Senate rules,” Hatch said, “and pass a complicated set of policies here on the floor without discussion or debate.”

“I’m appalled. I’ve only been here 37 years,” he later added. “But I’ve never seen the rules violated as they have been lately.”

Senate Democrats later took to the floor to push for the extension of the tax breaks, such as mass transit for workers and research and development for businesses.

Other extenders include a tax credit prized by the wind industry, and even a tax break for the horse racing industry that McConnell strongly supports. The Democratic bill to extend all those measures does not include an offset.

Tax extenders are frequently taken care of retroactively. In addition, even if the Senate had acted on Thursday, the House has left Washington for its Christmas recess and would have almost certainly not have acted on the measure before 2014.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) had said for much of 2013 that they would prefer to deal with the expiring provisions as part of their efforts to overhaul the tax code.

Because of that, the push on extenders on Thursday once again puts Baucus in the middle of the struggle between Democrats and Republicans on revenue issues — a fight that has imperiled his chances at tax reform.

But the Montana Democrat is now expected to be President Obama’s choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to China, and has started to soften his tone on extenders. Senators from both parties have started urging the committee to act on the expiring provisions sooner rather than later.

Baucus told reporters on Thursday that he’d try to get the extenders “enacted the first part of next year.”

But when asked if that meant extenders could still be dealt with as part of tax reform, Baucus said, “let’s see where we are. Let’s see what momentum we can put together.”

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” the Finance chairman added. “We’ll address it next year. It won’t be resolved this year.”