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.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerCan Mueller be more honest than his colleagues? Throwing some cold water on all of the Korean summit optimism House Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds MORE (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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees Senators to Trump: Let Mueller finish Russia probe Democrats fret over GOP changes to Mueller bill MORE (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 WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Cybersecurity: DHS cyber nominee vows to make election security 'top priority' | CIA to allow lawmakers to review classified info on Haspel | Dems raise security concerns about Trump's phone use CIA will allow senators to review classified material on Haspel Senators debate new business deduction, debt in tax law hearing MORE (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 ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees Harry Reid: ‘The less we talk about impeachment, the better off we are’ Lobbying world MORE (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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees Democrats fret over GOP changes to Mueller bill Let Robert Mueller do his job MORE (Iowa) is a longtime supporter of a tax credit for the wind industry. Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees McConnell hits back at 'ridiculous' Chinaperson remark GOP senator: 'We were there' on immigration before talks got derailed MORE (Ky.) backs a tax break for race horse owners.

Peter Schroeder contributed.