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Political Notebook

Senate Democrats delay tax cut vote

September 24, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic leaders decided last night to delay a vote on preserving middle-class tax cuts until after congressional elections in November.

President Obama has made extending the cuts a priority, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, tried to forge a consensus among fellow Democrats to pass a bill before voters choose their congressmen and senators on Nov. 2.

But Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, decided to delay any vote after a meeting with other Senate Democrats failed to produce an agreement on how to proceed.

“Democrats believe we must permanently extend tax cuts for the middle-class before they expire at the end of the year, and we will,’’ said Jim Manley, Reid spokesman. “Unfortunately, to this point we have received no cooperation from Republicans to do so.’’

Enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush, they were the most sweeping tax cuts in a generation. If Congress takes no action, taxpayers at every income level face significant tax increases next year.

Republicans want to extend all the tax cuts. Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress want to extend them for individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000.

“We will come back in November and stay in session as long as it takes to get this done,’’ Manley said.

House Democrats have said they would wait for the Senate to act, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had not decided whether to stage a symbolic vote on tax cuts before the election. Either way, no tax bill will reach the president’s desk before voters go to the polls.

A lame duck session of the House and Senate is set to begin Nov. 15, with a few new faces and perhaps a far different political outlook after an election in which Republicans are expected to make significant gains, even possibly enough to gain control of the House or Senate, or both. Democrats still will hold the majority through the end of the year, however. Some House and Senate Democrats believe the timing would make it easier to extend the Bush-era tax cuts.

But who gets a break on their tax bill — everyone, or just what Obama calls the middle class — would probably still be the subject of heated debate.

The Senate’s number two Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, described an election-driven stalemate unlikely to lift in the next five weeks, when many lawmakers up for reelection would prefer to be home campaigning. All 435 seats in the House and 37 in the Senate are on the line.

“We are so tightly wound up in this campaign that it’s impossible to see a bipartisan answer to the challenge we face,’’ Durbin, the Democrats’ vote-counting whip, said. “That’s the reality before the election.’’

— Associated Press

Democrats fail to halt filibuster of Disclose Act
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats failed again yesterday in their attempt to require corporations, unions, and other interest groups to provide details about their political spending.

The measure, known as the Disclose Act, fell one vote short of the 60 needed to break a GOP filibuster, with Republicans uniformly opposed to the bill. The legislation had also been blocked by Senate Republicans during an earlier vote in July.

The 59-to-30 vote marks a bitter defeat for Democratic leaders and President Obama, who has repeatedly urged Congress to pass the bill in response to a Supreme Court ruling lifting most restrictions on corporate and union political spending.

The outcome represents a major victory for Republicans and big business groups, which lobbied hard against a proposal that they said was an attempt by Democrats to silence GOP-leaning business groups.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, called the proposal a “cynical, partisan bill designed to silence the free speech of Congress’s critics and to protect Democrat incumbents.’’

Proponents argued that voters deserve to know the identities of donors who are funding outside advertising that has played an increasingly pivotal role in US elections. Under the bill, corporations and most interest groups would have been subject to stricter financial disclosure requirements.

The measure would also have broadened restrictions on foreign-controlled companies and required heads of companies and interest groups to appear on camera during their political spots.

Democratic leaders expressed frustration at the unwillingness of GOP moderates, such as Senators Susan M. Collins or Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, to allow the measure to move forward. Democrat leaders had signaled a willingness to debate changes to the legislation, including delaying its implementation until January.

— Associated Press

La. senator says she’ll block Obama economic nominee
WASHINGTON — Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana says she will block a Senate vote to confirm the nominee to a key White House economic office to protest the six-month moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Landrieu, a Democrat, says she will object to a vote on Jacob Lew to head the Office of Management and Budget until the administration lifts or significantly modifies the moratorium imposed after the BP oil spill.

She says she is not convinced that the White House understands the seriousness of the job losses and other economic problems caused by the moratorium.

— Associated Press