By DAVID ROGERS, Politico
In a roll of the dice, Democrats moved Thursday to take up a roughly $190 billion-plus jobs and tax package next week, hoping to complete passage before Memorial Day and forestall threatened cuts that would affect the elderly and the unemployed.
An unwieldy amalgam of state aid, infrastructure investments, tax cuts and extended jobless benefits, the massive bill is a sleeping giant in this political year and uniquely captures the hard choices facing a government beset by record deficits and an uncertain economy.
Included are routine tax cut extensions but also landmark reforms and a quadrupling of the fees now paid by oil companies to cover damages for spills like the BP disaster in the Gulf. Going into Novemberâ€™s elections, the spending represents a huge, costly, almost defiant commitment by Democrats to preserve a safety net for the unemployed and restore stability to Medicare reimbursements â€” important to physicians and their elderly patients.
The debate now is a gamble, given the Republican opposition and political tides in the Senate. But asked whether he would have 60 votes to quell a filibuster, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) answered flatly, â€œWe will.â€ And House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.) released the 433-page text Thursday night in anticipation of floor action in the House early next week.
â€œThereâ€™s lots of positives and no choice,â€ Levin said bluntly. â€œThe more people think of this, theyâ€™ll realize this is a jobs bill, and also weâ€™re stepping up to the plate on provisions that need to be addressed.â€
To reduce the deficit impact, tax writers have agreed to a series of revenue offsets worth close to $56 billion, including a temporary 24-cent-per-barrel increase in oil industry fees paid into a liability trust fund to cover damage claims from spills. The White Houseâ€™s one penny-per-barrel increaseâ€” proposed just last weekâ€”pales by comparison, and the goal is to raise an estimated $10.6 billion over the next 10 years.
Another $14.4 billion more would be raised in the same period from tightening rules related to the foreign tax credit. But the most prolonged fight has been one pitting powerful venture capital and private-equity interests against a House-backed reform targeting investment fund partnerships who now shelter income as â€œcarried interestâ€ at the lower capital gains rate of 15 percent.
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