WASHINGTON -- The House reminded voters yesterday that tax cuts have been fattening their paychecks and voted to cement the lower taxes that have been delivered by an expanded bottom bracket.
The tax cut is one of three that Congress plans to extend before they expire at the end of this election year. The House has voted to lock in tax cuts for married couples and plans to vote next week to preserve the $1,000 child tax credit.
Senate tax writers plan to combine all three into one bill later this year.
The tax-bracket bill passed, 344 to 76. It makes permanent the bottom tax bracket established in 2001, when the tax on the first $6,000 in earned wages was lowered from 15 percent to 10 percent. In 2003, Congress expanded the bracket to cover the first $7,000 earned.
''Today's actions help fix the inequities in our tax code and create more fairness for our lowest income earners," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois.
The bracket is to shrink back to $6,000 next year and disappear entirely in 2011. Republicans said 73 million taxpayers can expect to pay higher taxes next year if the broadened bottom bracket is not extended.
''The president is committed to allowing hard-working individuals and families keep more of their own money to help pay for their children's education, invest for retirement, and spend as they see fit," said Treasury Secretary John Snow.
House Democrats gave the bill strong support, despite worries that it would worsen budget deficits in a time of war. The bill cuts taxes more than $218 billion over a decade.
''This is financial madness," said Representative John Tanner, Democrat of Tennessee
The House rejected, 227 to 190, a Democratic alternative that would have kept the expanded bottom bracket in place through 2010. To cover the tax cut's cost, Democrats wanted to levy a 1.9 percent surcharge on individuals who earn $500,000 or more and on couples who earn at least $1 million.
Democrats would have stipulated that, after 2010, the bottom bracket would have remained in place only if White House budget officials projected that the federal budget would be balanced by 2014. Republicans said that clause would have forced lawmakers to give up their rights to set tax policy. ''You are saying the [White House] Office of Management and Budget is going to be the crossing guard that is going to prevent legislation going forward," said Representative Clay Shaw, Republican of Florida.