Wyden: Tax breaks bill could return next week


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Thursday that he would try to bring a broad tax-cut package blocked by Republicans back to the chamber floor as soon as next week.

Wyden said he would quickly consult with Republicans on possible amendments to the legislation, which would restore more than 50 tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013.

Republicans generally support reviving the tax breaks, commonly known as extenders. But they undercut the measure on Thursday in an intensifying spat with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over floor procedure and his blocking of amendments.

Wyden said that Reid is open to bringing the tax extenders measure up again swiftly if a deal on amendments can be struck and that he regretted the legislation got caught up in Senate gridlock.

“It’s a sad day when you see people who are underwater on their mortgages get punished again, the veterans who find it tougher to get a job,” Wyden said. “I think that’s sad.”

Still, Wyden didn’t sound any more open to allowing votes on issues such as repealing ObamaCare’s medical device tax, which was the main amendment that Republicans were pushing. In a statement, he later said he was “open to narrowly related amendments.”

The business community is firmly behind the $84 billion legislation, which includes incentives for corporate research, alternative energy sources and small-business expensing.

The Business Roundtable, for instance, said it was “greatly disappointed” about the Senate’s action on Thursday, and it urged Democratic and GOP leaders “to double down on their efforts to work together to reach a successful resolution.”

But lobbyists also quietly acknowledged that Thursday’s vote does little to change the overall prospects for tax extenders, regardless of whether Reid brings the bill back to the floor soon.

House Republicans, led by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), are taking a radically different approach to the expired provisions, seeking to extend some indefinitely and leave others out of the tax code for good.

Because of the divide, both lawmakers and lobbyists had not expected any final deal on extenders to be struck before November’s elections.

Because the Senate package continues to have bipartisan support, lobbyists and lawmakers don’t expect Thursday’s vote to change that.

In fact, some Republicans suggested it gave them more freedom to take a stand against Reid’s handling of Senate procedure.

“Ideally, we would give people some certainty and move something in the Senate, because companies are telling me they’re looking for some action,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the tax-writing Finance Committee.

But Portman added that a deal on tax extenders is “likely to happen before the year ends.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) added that the outside advocates worried about extenders are "sophisticated people."

“I think they understand that at some point this is likely to pass," Corker said. "I think they also understand it’s a problem when you have a Senate where you can’t have an amendment process.”

Still, other Republicans said that the ultimate fate of the measure wasn’t that much of a factor in their decision to block the bill.

“I don’t think you can be for an open amendment process on every bill but extenders,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said. “Give us credit for being consistent.”

Even some Democrats said Thursday’s vote would be just a small obstacle in the long run.

“It’s not failing,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said about the extenders bill. “It’s just not moving forward.”