Reid: Senate to take up tax extenders this week

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday said his chamber would take up legislation later this week to resuscitate several tax breaks that expired last year. 

The package will likely be raised as an amendment to an expansion of unemployment insurance.

“At the end of this week, we’re going to move into the tax extenders, and unemployment, COBRA, some things like that,” Reid said. “I have explained this to the Republican leader.”

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who had called on his chamber to pass legislation extending the tax breaks that expired last year, praised the move. 

“My gosh, these expired last year,” he said. “We have to get them passed.” 

Baucus insisted they move “sooner rather than later.” 

The current extension of unemployment insurance ends on Feb. 28. Attaching tax extenders to that package would be the perfect enticement for Republicans to support the spending measure, said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) 

“They [tax extenders] need to be used strategically to get as many positive votes as we can on things like UI where we will need a Republican votes,” he said. 

Democrats have 59 senators in their conference. Reid needs 60 votes to extend unemployment insurance. But with Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) hospitalized, Reid could need the support at least 2 Republicans to pass his UI/extender measure.

Still, not every Democrat is in favor of moving the extender bill before dealing with other measures that could help the economic recovery. 

“I have a whole list of issues,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). 

Cardin prefers Congress broaden loan opportunities to small businesses before extending expiring tax provisions. 

“I think it’s important to get to the extenders package, but if I was to put my priority list I’d put unemployment insurance and cobra extension and small business tax credits next on the list,” he said.

A tax extender package costing $31 billion was originally a part of an $85 billion jobs bill created by Baucus and Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). But Reid chose to put that measure aside and instead vote on scaled-back jobs bill costing $15 billion. Tax extenders were deleted from that package.