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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

White House Sweetens Tax Deal Trying to Snuff Out Democratic Mutiny

Neon Tommy |
December 9, 2010 | 9:50 p.m. PST

Senate leaders from both political parties hustled Thursday night to save the Obama-backed compromise tax bill which provoked a veritable mutiny among House Democrats earlier in the day.

Several “sweeteners” were hastily sprinkled into the Senate version of the bill, which will be voted on Monday, in an attempt to defuse blistering Democratic criticism of the measure which extends tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans for another two years. In a raucous, closed-door Democratic House caucus meeting Thursday meeting there was a near unanimous voice vote, laced with profanities, placing thumbs down on the measure.

Now, the White House has huddled with GOP and Democratic Senate leaders to make the bill more palatable to liberals, whose support is needed to get the deal through the House.

Politico reports:

“[In] the face of loud resistance from Democrats, congressional leaders and the White House agreed to add some sweeteners, including the continuation of a federal tax break for mass transit users, an ethanol tax credit and a grant program for renewable energy developers. The bill, which is estimated to cost about $850 billion over 10 years, also renews tax breaks on everything from coal plants, energy-efficient homes, hybrid cars, and mine safety equipment to child care, college and adoption expenses.

The additions could provide some cover for members of the House Democratic caucus, which voted earlier Thursday to oppose the bill, to jump on board with the bill and give the White House the votes it needs to pass the measure.

In the Senate, the energy measures were aimed at winning over Democrats such as Maria Cantwell of Washington, Barbara Boxer of California, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Dianne Feinstein of California. They were among 17 senators who signed a letter Thursday seeking inclusion of the grant program for renewable energy developers.
Democrats also wanted an extension of a clean energy manufacturing tax credit, but the renewable energy grant program was more acceptable to Republicans.
The ethanol credit could attract support from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and it already won praise Thursday night from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who put out press release touting its inclusion. The ethanol credit, which was set at 45 cents per gallon, was higher than many expected.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), in a statement Thursday, endorsed the plan for the first time.
“This bill is not perfect, but it provides the economic boost middle-class families and small business in Nevada and across America need,” Reid said. “The time for Republican political games is over. We must pass this measure before Congress adjourns.”


It’s a guessing game as to whether or not enough concessions have been made to forge workable majorities in both houses of the lame duck congress before it shuts down at the end of the year.  It’s a difficult balancing act as each step taken toward appeasing enraged liberals in the House risks alienating more Senate Republicans who, for the moment, overwhelmingly support the package.

“House Democrats were furious that they learned of many of the provisions through news reports, and senators have been clamoring for more details — as legislation continued to be drafted behind closed doors,” says The Boston Globe.

It won’t be an easy task to convince the bulk of the House Democratic delegation to go along, but neither is it impossible. Democrats realize that, given the math on Capitol Hill, some sort or another of compromise with the GOP was probably inevitable. But they fault President Obama for not fighting hard enough and giving away too much too fast to Republicans.

Ezra Klein, blogger at The Washington Post, has a good breakdown, with some compelling charts, as to why liberal s are so outraged over the substance of the compromise:

 Obama's got 156 million people splitting $214 billion in tax cuts and benefits. The GOP's got 4 million people splitting $133 billion in tax cuts. On a per-person level, the GOP's tax cuts are much larger. An individual billionaire is getting a far better deal than an individual unemployed American. And that's galling. The problem is that to take the money from the billionaire means to also take the money from the unemployed individual. Actually, taking the money from the billionaire means taking the money from a lot of unemployed Americans.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who helped lead the Democratic resistance to the package, meantime, says he’s not giving up.  He’s vowing to put together whatever coalition necessary, including with conservative Republicans, to filibuster the bill when it hits the Senate floor on Monday.  He told Vermont Public Radio: “Do I think we have a chance to defeat this proposal and then come up with a better one which makes sure that we do extend tax breaks to 98% of our population - everybody in the middle class - that we do make sure that 2 million unemployed workers get extended unemployment benefits? Do I think we have a shot at that? I do. Is it going to be a very tough fight?  It surely will.”



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