POLITICS

House Passes Tax Extenders Legislation Despite Democratic Objections

The bill could add $600 billion to the national debt over the next 10 years.
House Republicans passed the package despite Speaker Paul Ryan earlier calling the national debt the “greates
House Republicans passed the package despite Speaker Paul Ryan earlier calling the national debt the “greatest threat” to America’s future.

Over protests from most of their Democratic colleagues that the bill was not paid for, House Republicans passed a package of tax extensions on Thursday that is estimated to add more than $600 billion to the national debt over the next 10 years.

The bill, which will ultimately be merged with the so-called omnibus -- a $1.1 trillion spending measure that will fund the government until next October -- is estimated to cost $629 billion over the next decade and is not offset with other spending cuts.

The House passed the measure 318-109, with all but three Republicans supporting the it and Democrats splitting their vote, 77 in favor and 106 opposed.

"This is not Washington's money; it's the taxpayers," said Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas). 

Brady, who moved into the Ways and Means slot after Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) left the position to become speaker, said the most important thing for voters to know was that "this bill prevents their taxes from increasing, helps create more jobs in their communities and makes it easier for them to do their taxes."

But Democrats largely objected to the sweeping tax legislation, which would make the so-called Research and Development tax credit permanent and  extend several other tax breaks.

"The long-term negative dangers of this legislation make the price too high," said the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin of Michigan.

Levin criticized the bill for not finding a way to replace the revenue the government would lose. He said that the measure would further jeopardize future cuts to other domestic programs as Republicans try to balance the budget by cutting programs.

Republicans countered that many of these tax provisions have been around for decades, and they argued that providing longer term extensions would provide more certainty to businesses and families.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, however, said he had heard this speech from Republicans before.

"The certainty of this bill is that we will explode further deficits and provide for disinvestment," Hoyer said. "That's the certainty of this bill."

The Maryland Democrat continued that he did actually support many of the tax provisions in the bill, but he thought Congress ought to do the difficult work of actually paying for the legislation.

"This is easy to do," he said. "No courage required to vote for this bill. All you have to do is suspend commonsense."

Of the cuts that made it, here are the largest permanent breaks:
Boosting the child tax credit to $3,000: $88 billion.
The American Opportunity education credit: $80 billion
The earned income tax credit: $30 billion
Deduction for state and local sales taxes: $42 billion
The research and development tax credit: $113 billion
"Section 179" deductions for business expenses: $77 billion
Active financing income breaks for keeping foreign earnings offshore: $78 billion 

Michael McAuliff contributed to this report.

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