House Democrats say they won't back down on tax package
Dispute imperils vote on policy
WASHINGTON - With the legislative clock ticking down, House Democrats said yesterday they would not relent in their dispute with the Senate on a major tax relief package, increasing odds that businesses could lose out on critical tax breaks and millions could get hit by the alternative minimum tax this year.
House majority leader Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, suggested it might be next year before consensus can be reached on a tax initiative that includes adjusting the alternative minimum tax, providing tax relief to disaster victims, and extending tax credits for renewable energy development, business investment, and individual education and child care costs.
The House had intended to adjourn for the year yesterday. But that plan changed when lawmakers rejected the $700 billion financial bailout legislation, forcing congressional and administrative leaders to regroup. The House now plans to reconvene Thursday, perhaps giving lawmakers another shot at the tax bill.
Lawmakers in both chambers stressed that the tax relief bill would create tens of thousands of jobs and contribute to the nation's energy independence. But House Democrats insisted that more of the package, totaling $138 billion in House bills, be paid for so as not to increase the deficit. Senate Republicans said any changes in the Senate-passed tax bill would kill the package.
The House "has taken the morally and fiscally responsible position," said Representative Mike Ross, Democrat of Arkansas, a leader of the 49-member Blue Dogs, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats. As Ross spoke, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, tried to bring up a House-passed bill dealing with renewable energy and extension of business and individual tax breaks that expired last year or will lapse at the end of this year. Republicans objected to consideration of the bill.
Reid acknowledged that "we can't get it done" because Senate Democrats don't have the votes to move the bill without GOP cooperation. The Senate still plans to meet later this week and could take up the House-passed fix to the alternative minimum tax separately.