Go Ahead, Let Republicans Filibuster a Long-Term AMT Fix

For the better part of the past three decades the Republican Party has promoted itself as the party of tax cuts. What happens, though, when Republicans filibuster legislation that would ensure that as many as 50 million Americans don't get caught in the net of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was originally designed to ensure that the wealthiest among us weren't able to get out of paying federal income taxes? That might not be the way the media is framing this story -- or even how the Democrats are, for that matter -- but that question comes at the heart of the debate over how to deal with the AMT this session of Congress. Edmund L. Andrews reports.

Senate Democrats face an agonizing choice in the days ahead: find a way to raise at least $50 billion in new taxes, or undermine their most important rule for enforcing budget discipline.

With the end of the year fast approaching, Congress has to pass another one-year fix to prevent the alternative minimum tax -- a tax originally created to make sure millionaires paid income taxes -- from engulfing about 23 million households with incomes as low as $50,000.

Democrats and Republicans alike want to prevent that increase, just as they have in the past, but the one-year cost has ballooned and Democratic "pay as you go" rules now require Congress to make up for the lost revenue.

On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a $76 billion bill that would freeze the alternative minimum tax, extend several other tax breaks and pay for that mainly by eliminating a major tax break for people who run private equity funds and scores of other investment partnerships.

But Senate Democrats are less than enthusiastic about that tax increase, and they worry that they cannot muster the 60-vote majority they will need to pass any measure that would comply with the pay-as-you-go rule. [empphasis added]

First of all, shame on Andrews for calling Charlie Rangel's AMT legislation a "tax increase." It is not a tax increase. Not whatsoever. The measure being forwarded in the House by Ways and Means chairman Rangel is a tax reform, one intended to be revenue neutral. While some will see their tax liabilities go up, others -- in fact many others -- will see their tax liabilities go down. In the aggregate, there will be no increase in the amount of taxes being paid by the American people. Ronald Reagan, along with the Democratic House and the Republican Senate, passed tax reform legislation in 1986 that cut taxes for some and raised taxes for other. That measure was not deemed a "tax increase" -- and neither should Rangel's bill.

Leaving aside that shoddy word usage by Andrews, if the Democrats want to have any success on this issue, they're going to have to begin talking about it in a cogent way. This means calling out the Republicans for threatening to filibuster legislation that would ensure that 23 million households don't all of the sudden find themselves subject to a tax initially aimed at the extremely conniving wealthy. That's exactly what Republicans are doing -- threatening to filibuster a reasonable tax reform bill that would save billions for millions of Americans because of their extremist ideology, on the basis of which they are unwilling to pay for pay for today through offsets rather than tomorrow through borrowing.

This is how this issue should be framed. Andrews says it, though not emphatically: "Republicans [are] insisting on 60 votes to limit debate," which is another way of saying they are filibustering the legislation. Now I'm under no delusion that this is necessarily the way this issue is going to play out. But if the Democrats want to win, they're going to have to play hardball -- and in this case that means beating the Republicans at their own game.

Tags: 110th congress, AMT, Filibuster, Senate Republicans, Taxes (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

Get some balls and find a way, Dems!!!

Just stick it in the budget bill.  Budgets cannot be filibustered.

by jgarcia 2007-11-03 01:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Get some balls and find a way, Dems!!!

I'm sure Bush will moan that Alqaeda will attack us unless we have 20 Million more Americans  paying the Alternative Minimum Tax.

by changingroom 2007-11-03 09:28PM | 0 recs
This is a good bill

It cuts taxes for 99% of taxpayers while raising them on just the wealthiest 1%, who have seen their taxes cut over and over again.  Democrats should also point out the Republican tax plan, which is a 23% or likely higher sales tax on everything we buy.  This would be a huge tax increase on the poor and middle class.  

by Toddwell 2007-11-03 01:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Ahead, Let

Republicans don't care about the poor and the middle class they only care about the rich so any burden that is put on the upper class is a tax increase in their mind

by orin76 2007-11-03 05:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Ahead, Let

Right -- Cut taxes for the Rich and make everyone else pay for it.  I can't see how the Republicans get one vote except for the fact that they have media support for everything they do.  I can just see the news story now AMERICAN MIDDLE CLASS SLACKERS REFUSE TO PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE OF TAXES.  

by changingroom 2007-11-03 09:25PM | 0 recs
Thats exactly

what they want to do.  They want to give more huge tax cuts for the rich and make the middle class pay for it and you know why?  Because to them, the middle class don't count.  They can't afford to be apart of the Republican's club.  

by Toddwell 2007-11-03 09:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Thats exactly

Republicans have always been the party of the rich.  Look at all the previous Republicans Presidents and notice the recessions on their watch Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 1 and 2. There was no recession under Johnson or Clinton who believed with full employment and targeted taxes on the rich the economy thrives. Republicans believe that if you give tax breaks to the rich it will filter down to everyone else--ain't happening.  There is a new fight in Congress about the alternative Minimum Tax.  They want 50 Million Americans to pay this to cover the tax cuts for the rich.  The Republicans are going to filibuster this making it impossible to make the necessary changes which would allow the extra 23 Million middle class Americans to opt out of this tax.  Between this and the Bankrupcy Bill which the Republicans passed, the middle class will be badly wounded.  We need to remember this in 08 when we are on the ropes and Bush is saying the Democratic Congress accomplished nothing.  With a veto proof Dem Congress and a Democratic President watch things change in this country for ordinary Americans.  

Sadly, the media will echo the Republican talking points about how we as individuals need to keep our own money-- how they can say these things with a straight face while they pick our pockets is the height of hypocrisy.

by changingroom 2007-11-04 07:52AM | 0 recs

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