Tuesday December 1st, 2015 8:34PM

Senate ready for symbolic showdown on tax cuts

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The Senate is bracing for a tax-cut showdown that is all about Democrats and Republicans showing voters their differences over taxing the well-off while accusing each other of threatening to shove the government over a fiscal cliff.

Senators planned to vote Wednesday on a $250 billion Democratic bill that would extend expiring tax cuts next year for all but the highest earners. Democrats will need 60 votes to advance the proposal, which they do not have.

It seemed unlikely that senators also would vote on a rival GOP plan that includes the best-off Americans in the tax reductions, a measure that was destined to lose.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was ready to push legislation through his chamber next week that closely mirrors the Senate GOP measure. Republicans there introduced their bill on Tuesday, accompanied by another measure designed to speed work next year on legislation overhauling the entire tax code.

The clash in the Senate underscored how little the partisan tax-cutting duel had to do with actually passing a law this year. If anything, it highlighted how entrenched both parties' views were.

"Democrats will simply never agree we should hand out more tax breaks to the richest 2 percent of Americans while this economy is in the situation it's in now," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, sponsor of the Democratic bill.

"Our friends on the other side are practicing what could best be described as `Thelma & Louise' economics," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

"Let's just march the whole country right off the cliff and see how that works out," McConnell said, referring to the movie's memorable climax.

If the two sides don't compromise, a massive $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts for 2013 would be triggered automatically in January - the so-called fiscal cliff, which analysts say would jar the already weak economy.

Mostly following President Barack Obama's proposal, the Democratic bill would continue Bush-era tax cuts for everyone except individuals making at least $200,000 yearly and couples earning more than $250,000.

Those taxpayers would face top rates of 36 percent and 39.6 percent, respectively, instead of today's 33 percent and 35 percent. That would mean higher taxes for 2.5 million households, or 2 percent of all 140.5 million tax returns, according to 2009 data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Democrats say levies on the wealthy should rise because all income groups should contribute to deficit reduction. Republicans say those tax increases would burden the owners of many companies, leaving them less money to create jobs.

The Democratic bill also would let the top estate tax rate grow to 55 percent next year, with only the first $1 million in an estate's value exempted. That's an uncomfortable move for Democratic senators from farming and high-cost states.

Republicans would renew today's milder 35 percent top rate, exempting the first $5.12 million. Congress' nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation says the lower Democratic threshold would affect the owners of 46,700 estates projected to die next year - a tiny percentage of Americans, but far more than the 3,600 who would be exposed under the GOP's terms.

Democrats would impose top tax rates next year of 20 percent on dividends and capital gains, two sources of income enjoyed disproportionately by the wealthy. The GOP top rate would be 15 percent.

The GOP bill ignores some tax reductions for low- and middle-income families that Democrats want to extend.

These include the American opportunity tax credit, worth up to $2,500 to cover college expenses; language making the earned income tax credit more generous for large working families and some married working couples; and a boost in the tax refunds some families get under the child tax credit.

All were part of Obama's 2009 stimulus bill, which Democrats say were meant to be permanent but Republicans say were only a short-term response to the recession.

Combined, those Democratic provisions would provide tax breaks averaging $1,000 to 25 million families, according to Treasury Department figures distributed by the White House.

Republicans also proposed bigger tax write-offs than Democrats did for small businesses taking deductions for the costs of buying some equipment.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Doctors: Blood clot located in Clinton's head
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton developed a blood clot in her head but did not suffer a stroke or neurological damage, her doctors said Monday. They say they are confident that she will make a full recovery.
3:55PM ( 2 years ago )
Illinois Sen. Kirk to return a year after stroke
Nearly a year after a stroke left him barely able to move the left side of his body, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is expected to climb the 45 steps to the Senate's front door this week - a walk that's significant not just for Illinois' junior senator, but also for medical researchers and hundreds of thousands of stroke patients.
3:54PM ( 2 years ago )
U.S. News
Ga. ethics legislation could end free tickets
General Assembly approval next year of a proposed ethics reform measure could endanger an important fall tradition for Georgia lawmakers - free football tickets.
6:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Abortion restrictions, tax changes loom in Ga.
Tax breaks for manufacturers and higher unemployment taxes for employers take effect with the new year in Georgia, but it remains to be seen whether the state's newest abortion restrictions will be enforced.
6:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Budget battle sends mixed signals on health care
Confused about the federal budget struggle? So are doctors, hospital administrators and other medical professionals who serve the 100 million Americans covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
6:20PM ( 2 years ago )
White House offers governors info on refugees in their states after Syrian migrants uproar
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is proposing to offer governors individualized reports about refugees in their states.White House chief of staff Denis McDonough says in letters to all 50 governors t...
9:08PM ( 23 hours ago )
Standoff at Planned Parenthood ends with suspect's arrest; 3 killed, 9 wounded
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A gunman who opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic was arrested Friday after engaging in gun battles with authorities during an hourslong standoff that killed t...
1:13AM ( 3 days ago )
White House undergoes Thanksgiving Day lockdown after man draped in American flag jumps fence
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man draped in an American flag climbed over the fence at the White House on Thursday, prompting a lockdown as the first family celebrated Thanksgiving.The man was immediately appre...
10:11PM ( 4 days ago )
Obama grants reprieve to turkeys 'Honest' and 'Abe' during White House ceremony
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama spared two turkeys named for one of the nation's most admired presidents, continuing a White House tradition that provides a refreshing sense of amusement and...
9:18PM ( 5 days ago )
The Latest: UN Security Council strongly condemns 'horrifying' attack in Mali, urges probe
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):___4:55 a.m.The U.N. Security Council is condemning "the horrifying terrorist attack" at the...
10:58PM ( 1 week ago )