Thursday, December 16, 2010
Congress Passes Tax Bill
By JANET HOOK and JOHN MCKINNON
WASHINGTON—Congress passed the most far-reaching tax bill in a decade late Thursday, averting across-the-board tax increases, enacting new breaks for individuals and businesses and laying a marker for how Washington might work in an era of divided government.
Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin on Capitol Hill Thursday as the tax bill that passed the Senate a day earlier was held up in the House.
The bill goes to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature after the House overcame persistent liberal opposition and passed it with an unexpectedly large bipartisan majority of 277-148. The measure passed the Senate earlier in the week also with an overwhelming majority.
The bill reaches deeply into the life and economy of the U.S., more so than might have been expected when Congress first started tackling the matter. Wage-earners will get a new payroll tax break; wealthy heirs get a lower estate-tax rate; and businesses gain an unexpected plum—a big tax write-off for new equipment purchases.
The $858 billion bill breaks a stubborn political impasse prompted by the Bush-era tax cuts, which were due to expire at the end of this year. The bill provides a two-year extension for all income brackets, kicking the issue into the next Congress and into the middle of the 2012 election. Lawmakers, especially Republicans, said the current economy was too weak to withstand a tax increase.
In the bill's sweep, Congress signaled a return to tax cutting as a principal engine of driving economic growth, especially compared with Mr. Obama's 2009 stimulus bill, which put more emphasis on government spending. Coming after the Democratic losses in November's midterm elections the playbook this time was more in keeping with Republican orthodoxy.