by Todd Beeton, Thu Mar 19, 2009 at 09:01:56 AM EDT
Today the House will consider legislation that seeks to use taxation to recoup AIG's bonuses:
The House will vote this afternoon on a bill that would impose a 90 percent income tax on $165 million in bonuses distributed to employees of the troubled insurance giant American International Group, the first of multiple steps that lawmakers are expected to take to quell public furor and tighten government control over AIG and other financial sector recipients of federal bailout aid.
Debate is under way now. While it would at first seem to be a no-brainer for any member of Congress seeking to quell the populist ire in the country, it's actually not entirely clear how Republicans are going to vote on this. Remember, they're not big fans of higher taxes; they want to "let people have more money in their pockets to do with as they wish", even if that money is ours and even if those pockets belong to folks who got us into this mess in the first place.
So Republicans are trying to change the subject.
Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate criticized the measures and accused both the White House and Congressional Democrats of trying to shift attention from what the GOP considers to be lax oversight of bailout efforts. "It sounds to me like these guys are trying to cover their tracks," said Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the No. 2 Republican leader.
And here's Eric Cantor bobbing and weaving on the question of how he's going to vote on the bill. "It's terrible tax policy but I'm telling you one thing, I'm wanna get those bonus payments back in."
Why does this vote put Republicans in such a tough spot? David Waldman explains.
Looks like the Republicans may throw their weight against the TARP bonus tax.
Yep. Boss Limbaugh has issued his veto, and the GOP pays fealty.
But talk about trying to have your cake and eat it too! Limbaugh says they have to reject the bill as excessive, but Republicans are afraid to do that. Despite being idiots, they're not idiots.
So what's the hook? They oppose the 90% tax, they claim, because... it's not 100%!
Yep. That's actually it. That's what Boehner just said on the floor.
Waldman thinks this bill may go down because of a lack of Republican support (it needs 2/3 to pass.) It's going to be very difficult for Republicans to explain why they opposed this, which makes it all the more brilliant as a legislative weapon: it reframes taxes as a populist tool of justice, the hero, vs. the villain Republican orthodoxy insists it is.
Update [2009-3-19 14:4:48 by Todd Beeton]:Waldman's watching the debate. Here's his take on one wingnut's principled (not) opposition to the bill:
Republican idiot Lynn Jenkins (R-KS-02) says the tax bill is flawed b/c it doesn't recoup 100% of the bonuses -- "the $165 million in bonuses AIG recently made must be recaptured," and "the legislation voted on today will not recapture 100% of taxpayers' money," then says "it sets a dangerous precedent for punishing individuals by taxing past behavior deemed inappropriate." Total. F-ing. Moron.
Sounds like the standard GOP talking points of those opposing the bill.
Update [2009-3-19 14:35:25 by Todd Beeton]:TPM has Grover Norquist's take on the AIG bonus tax bill: you can vote for it IF there are other tax cuts to balance it out. Wow, ain't he nice.
Grover Norquist, the top anti-tax activist in the Republican Party, has given ABC an answer about whether Republicans can vote for the AIG-bonus tax and still be in accordance with the anti-tax pledge that the vast majority of them have signed with Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform.
The answer: Yes, you can -- but only if it includes additional offsetting cuts in taxes or spending, too. Norquist seems to acknowledge here that the AIG tax is itself a kind of spending decrease -- the government is taking back money it already spent -- but he wants more tax decreases, too.
Also, Greg Sargent has John Boehner's statement on his intention to vote No.
They're voting on the bill now.