Ways and Means clears GOP tax cut proposal

The measure, a top priority of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), would let the millions of companies that had fewer than 500 employees in either 2010 or 2011 deduct 20 percent of their 2012 profits.

Cantor has said that he hoped the full House would approve the $46 billion tax break by the time Americans' taxes are due next month. The measure would cap the tax cut’s value at 50 percent of W-2 wages businesses pay to their employees.

But Democrats, who have sharply criticized the measure in recent days, pointed out that the proposal is the sort of temporary tax provision that the House GOP budget, which is expected to get a floor vote this week, calls for ending.

Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on Ways and Means, also cited a study from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center that said that close to half of the tax cut’s benefits would go to those making more than $1 million a year.

“This is, as I said, the antithesis of tax reform,” Levin told reporters after the markup. “This is indefensible and inexcusable.”

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) noted that, because the proposal does not limit what types of businesses are eligible for the tax break, Larry Flynt and Donald Trump would be among those who could conceivably benefit.

On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democrats have rolled out their own small-business tax cut, which would give tax relief to companies that expand their payroll.