House Republicans push more than $600B in tax cuts

Alan Fram
Associated Press

Washington – — Republicans overwhelmed divided Democrats to whisk tax breaks for businesses, families and special interests through the House on Thursday as Congress sped toward final votes on a year-crowning budget accord that will also bankroll the government in 2016.

The tax measure, approved 318-109, includes political coups for both parties. More than 50 expiring tax cuts will be extended with more than 20 becoming permanent, including credits for companies’ expenditures for research and equipment purchases and reductions for lower-earning families and households with children and college students.

“Finally with this tax bill, families and businesses are going to have the long-term certainty that they need instead of scrambling year after year to find out what’s next,” declared House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Michigan’s five Democrats were among those voting against the legislation, along with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township.

Rep. Sander Levin, ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter to fellow Democrats Wednesday urging them to oppose the bill, arguing the business tax provisions should not be made permanent outside of broader tax reform. He also said that boosting the deficit by more than $600 billion would jeopardize funding for key discretionary spending priorities for Democrats in the future such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“This bill is a piecemeal approach to tax reform. It is the opposite of what was done by former Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, who kept some provisions, changed some, ended some like bonus depreciation, and paid for his revenue-neutral comprehensive tax reform proposal,” Levin said on the House floor Thursday.

“The long-term negative dangers of this legislation make the price too high.”

Ryan, who just six weeks ago succeeded the deposed former Speaker John Boehner, all but claimed the bill’s passage as a personal triumph, citing it as an example of his drive “to get our House back on track.” The Senate aimed to approve the tax bill Friday.

Both chambers also planned Friday votes on the second leg of the budget compromise, a $1.1 trillion measure financing government, after which Congress was ready to adjourn until January.

Overall, the budget pact was a modest one with many on each side describing it as the best deal they could get under divided government. It was arguably most noteworthy for what it didn’t include, such as GOP efforts to halt Planned Parenthood’s federal money and Democratic pushes for stiffened gun curbs.

While Republicans voted nearly in lockstep for the tax measure, it split Democrats, who opposed it by 106-77. While some Democrats said it was an opportunity to make family tax breaks permanent, others complained it was too skewed toward business.

Detroit News Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.