Dems rebuff White House on tax breaks

Senate Democrats on Wednesday brushed aside concerns from the White House that legislation to revive a slew of lapsed tax breaks would add to the deficit.

ADVERTISEMENT
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the no. 3 Democrat in the chamber, said any push to find offsets for the roughly $85 billion legislation would be fruitless.

"I think that getting our economy going, and getting the tax extenders done is very important,” said Schumer, who’s also a member of the tax-writing Finance Committee.

“If we look for an offset, we won't get it. The day when we offset some of these things will come with tax reform. But I don't think the economy can wait.”

The Senate is expected to take another procedural vote Wednesday on the legislation, which would extend dozens of tax breaks that lapsed at the end of 2013.

Other top Democrats, such as Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), suggested they were more concerned about the broader fight between the two parties over the amendment process, which has recently derailed other bills with bipartisan support.

Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Wednesday that he had discussed the tax bill with administration officials, but insisted that he wanted to press ahead.

“I’ve made it very clear this is going to be the last extender bill on my watch,” Wyden said.

The Obama administration said in a statement this week that it hoped Congress would find a way to offset the cost of the tax breaks, which include popular provisions like the research credit and others derided as corporate pork, like incentives for Puerto Rican rum distillers and NASCAR track owners.

But the White House statement stopped short of threatening to veto the Senate measure. The administration did issue a veto warning last week about a House proposal to expand and permanently extend the research credit, which would cost roughly $156 billion over a decade.

“The administration supports the extension of many of the tax provisions in the Senate bill, such as those that support America’s small businesses, help unemployed veterans find jobs, and promote clean energy production and research and development,” Bobby Whithorne, a White House spokesman, said in the statement.

“The president in his budget has put forward a way to pay for these tax provisions so they don’t add to the deficit and hopes that as legislation moves forward, Congress will offset their cost by closing tax loopholes.”

Even without the veto threat, the White House statement showed that Democrats aren’t totally on the same page when it comes to tax extenders.

Top House Democrats joined the administration in loudly opposing last week’s measure on the research and development credit, saying a permanent extension of the tax break would be fiscally irresponsible.

But more than 60 Democrats ended up backing that measure, and both Republican and Democratic tax writers in the Senate have had no issue with passing the tax extender bill without offsets.

“On the Finance Committee, both Democrats and Republicans agreed that we would not look for an offset here,” Schumer said.

Republicans have also pushed to attach a repeal of the medical device tax in President Obama’s healthcare law to the extenders package.

Wyden has said he’s working with the GOP on amendments, but neither he nor Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have given any indication that they’d allow that vote.

The extenders package has bipartisan support in large part because most lawmakers have favored provisions among the more than 50 that would be extended in the bill.

Schumer, for instance, backs an incentive for workers who use mass transit, and wants to expand a tax break for film and television producers to include Broadway.

On the GOP side, Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) is a longtime supporter of a tax credit for the wind industry. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) backs a tax break for race horse owners.

Peter Schroeder contributed.