With the legislative session of the 111th Congress winding down, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer addressed the remaining schedule with members of the press at a weekly news conference Tuesday morning. His top priority was the future of the Bush tax cut extension in the House.
The Senate voted 83-15 Monday night to move forward to a final vote on the legislation. Hoyer said that vote could have an impact on moving that legislation forward in the House.
“Obviously there is strong support for moving ahead because there is a very keen sense that allowing middle income taxes to go up on January 1, 2011 would not be good for the economy,” Hoyer said.
Directly addressing criticism about the bill from members of his own party, Hoyer acknowledged that “there are mixed feelings, animated feelings and some pretty cold feelings about giving upper income people a tax break. We’ll have to wait and see what emerges as the final product.”
In its current form, the tax cut bill includes:
-Extension of all current income tax rates, which were enacted under President Bush, for two years
-Estate tax reduction: Revives the estate tax at a rate of 35 percent for estates worth $5 million and more
-Thirteen-month extension of unemployment benefits
-One-year, two-percent reduction on the Social Security payroll tax
-Retention of the child tax credit
The estate tax is the biggest bone of contention for House Democrats – and they are eager to make changes to that aspect of the compromise. Any changes, however, could threaten the already-tenuous compromise reached by the White House and Senate Republicans.
The House Democratic caucus is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening to determine how to proceed on the bill. When asked if he thought President Obama should weigh in again on the debate, Hoyer said he didn’t believe it was necessary for the president to do so again.
“He’s made it pretty clear that there are parts of the bill that make him uncomfortable, as it does many members, but the president knows there are items in the bill that are absolutely essential to help grow the economy,” Hoyer said
Hoyer said he expects a final vote in the Senate late Tuesday afternoon, but the Senate has not yet outlined a time.
Other items Hoyer mentioned on the schedule include the introduction of a stand-alone version of a repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans openly gay service members from the military. That piece of legislation was introduced Tuesday at noon, though it has not yet been placed on the schedule for floor action.
He also made reference to the continuing resolution to fund the government, The DREAM act, a path to citizenship for children who are illegal immigrants, and health insurance for 9/11 responders.
Hoyer said the schedule remains fluid and did not rule out the possibility of the House working this weekend or in the days leading up to Christmas next week.