Wednesday, May 22, 2013
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Democrats began trying to push a bill through the Senate Tuesday slicing taxes for businesses that hire new workers and buy major new equipment. They ran straight into opposition from Republicans who complained that the measure was too timid and sought to refocus the debate on their own economic priorities.
In this May 17, 2012 file photo, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democrats want to push tax cuts through the Senate for companies that hire new workers, give raises or buy major new equipment this year. With neither party eager to let the other claim campaign-season victories, the ultimate fate of the roughly $29 billion legislation seems dubious. Debate was to begin Tuesday, though it was possible Republicans would use procedural blockades to quickly derail the measure. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
As soon as debate began, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he would offer an amendment extending for another year broad tax cuts for millions of Americans that expire in January, including for the wealthiest earners. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders want to renew them only for families earning up to $250,000 — a cutoff that Democrats say would force the rich to contribute to deficit reduction but Republicans say would stifle job creation.
"I remain amazed that the Democratic majority has decided to pursue this bill to support small businesses, when looming tax increases threaten to crush these same small businesses," Hatch said.
"It's just like asking to go into a deeper recession," he added of the tax increases that will hit unless Congress acts. "It's like saying we don't care."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would not say whether he would allow a vote on Hatch's amendment, but it seemed unlikely. He tried turning the tables on Republicans by accusing them of holding middle-class tax cuts hostage so the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans could get tax reductions.
"So I give Mitt Romney and all the Republicans this news: They're all doing just fine. Mitt Romney doesn't need additional tax breaks," Reid said of the wealthy GOP presidential challenger.
With Election Day less than four months off, the battle highlighted how both parties are using congressional debate to transmit their messages to voters with little regard to whether the legislation at stake will ever become law.
The Senate's Democratic tax-cutting bill has little chance of surviving. Neither does Wednesday's planned vote by the Republican-run House to repeal Obama's 2010 health care law, which has no chance of being duplicated in the Democratic-led Senate.
The Senate bill debated Tuesday would let businesses take tax credits for 10 percent of the difference between their payrolls this year and 2011, whether the extra money is used to hire workers or give raises to existing employees.
Because the credit is capped at $500,000, Democrats said it would predominantly help small businesses. It also limits the tax credit to the first $110,100 of each worker's salary, which the White House said meant that "well-paid executives would be ineligible for tax relief."
The measure would also let firms buying major new equipment in 2012, such as machinery, deduct the entire cost of the purchase this year under so-called "bonus depreciation" rules. Currently they can only deduct half the amount.
Though both parties favor the idea, critics say it sometimes gives tax breaks to firms that would have purchased the equipment anyway, limiting its impact.
Democrats said the measure would create 990,000 jobs, citing a study they requested from a private, nonpartisan economic consulting firm. The White House said almost 2 million companies that boost their payrolls would get tax breaks and noted that Obama had proposed lower levies for small businesses in the "to-do" list he suggested for Congress in May.
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