Senate defeats amendments to ease tax-filling requirements for small businesses

The Senate on Monday night defeated two amendments designed to ease the tax-filing requirements for small businesses.

Senators voted 61-35 — six votes short of the necessary 67 — to reject an amendment by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) that would strip a provision from the new healthcare law that requires businesses to report supply purchases of $600 or more with a single vendor. Likewise, the chamber voted 44-53 to defeat Sen. Max Baucus' (D-Mont.) amendment, which would accomplish the same provision but is unpaid-for. That amendment also required 67 votes.

At issue is a section of the new healthcare law that requires businesses, charities and state and local governments to file 1099 reports for all transactions above $600 per year. The votes also represented a noteworthy showdown between Johanns and Baucus, who presented a similar idea but did not fund it through offset spending cuts.

Johanns said his approach was wiser since it was funded through unspent federal monies, directing the federal Office of Management and Budget to cut $39 billion in funds that would have been generated by the 1099 mandate.

But Baucus noted that 67 votes were needed for either approach, calling such a threshold “pretty close to impossible” with the 58-42 breakdown of the Democratically controlled Senate during the current lame-duck session. Much of the argument came down to the decision-making power that would be invested in the executive branch to determine any spending cuts.

Johanns indirectly ridiculed Democrats for shying away from supporting President Obama, but Democrats said they wanted to preserve congressional power. They noted that the Johanns amendment would force cuts to be determined solely by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

The Johanns amendment "would give the unelected director of OMB unprecedented authority to slash spending, all on his own," and it "would thus abdicate Congress’s responsibility over the budget,” Baucus said.

The votes came after a 69-26 vote to end debate on an overall food safety bill. The successful vote was widely expected and suggests an equally successful final vote for the food safety bill on Tuesday.