Dems look to keep tax on billionaires in spending bill

Top Democrats said on Sunday they are eyeing a tax on billionaires to help fund the party’s multi-trillion dollar reconciliation bill, which lawmakers on Capitol Hill hope to advance this week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the Democrats’ social spending bill “probably will have a wealth tax,” when asked about how the massive piece of legislation will be paid for.

Pressed by Tapper on specifics, Pelosi responded “we will see,” adding that once the legislation is written and introduced the Joint Tax Committee will be tasked with evaluating it.

Democrats are eyeing a tax on people with $1 billion in assets or those who have brought in $100 million in income for three consecutive years, a person familiar with the discussions told The Wall Street Journal.

That tax will reportedly affect fewer than 1,000 people, a smaller group than the capital-gains changes that were shot down by some Democratic lawmakers.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sounded a similar note to Pelosi on Sunday, but broke with the speaker on what to call the tax on billionaires.

Yellen said the Senate Finance Committee is looking at a tax on unrealized capital gains and liquid assets, but said she would not call it a “wealth tax.”

“I think what’s under consideration is a proposal that Senator Wyden and the Senate Finance Committee have been looking at that would impose a tax on unrealized capital gains, on liquid assets held by extremely wealthy individuals, billionaires. I wouldn’t call that a wealth tax,” Yellen told Tapper in a separate interview.

“But it would help get at capital gains, which are an extraordinarily large part of the incomes of the wealthiest individuals, and right now escape taxation, until they’re realized, and often they’re unrealized in the death benefit from a so-called step up of basis,” she added.

The treasury secretary emphasized “it’s not a wealth tax, but a tax on unrealized capital gains of exceptionally wealthy individuals.”

Also on Sunday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she “pushing hard” to use a tax on the wealthy to help fund President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

“I’m pushing hard, but the key is, the American people get it. They get that the system is rigged. Teachers and nurses and firefighters are just tired of paying more in taxes than Jeff Bezos pays,” the senator said during an interview on MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart.”

“This is one of those moments of reckoning. And the folks who have to be brought along are the folks sitting in Washington, the elected officials. And that’s what, I think, we’ve got our toes right on the line to get done,” she added. 

The conversation regarding a tax on billionaires comes after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Ariz.) office outlined the moderate Democrat’s opposition to raising tax rates for corporations and rich people. 

Sinema’s office said she thinks hiking tax rates “will not in any way address the challenge of tax avoidance or improve economic competitiveness.”

“She is committed to ensuring everyday families can get ahead and that we continue creating jobs,” Sinema spokesman John LaBombard said in a statement. “She has told her colleagues and the president that simply raising tax rates will not in any way address the challenge of tax avoidance or improve economic competitiveness.”

Democrats are scrambling to come up with a plan on how to fund their package, which is central to Biden’s legislative agenda and includes key investments in child and health care, among other initiatives.

Pelosi said Democrats have agreed to 90% of the reconciliation package. “I think we are pretty much there now,” Pelosi told Tapper on Sunday, when asked if the party would have a deal by the end of this week. 

Tags budget reconciliation package Elizabeth Warren Jake Tapper Janet Yellen Jeff Bezos Joe Biden Kyrsten Sinema Nancy Pelosi social spending package Wealth tax

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