Thursday, March 13, 2008

Effing Liberals

Congress endorses higher taxes in budget proposals

WASHINGTON — Democrats in both House and Senate pressed ahead with budget plans that would saddle millions of Americans with higher tax bills in three years by allowing some or all of President Bush's reductions to die after he leaves office.

All three major presidential candidates interrupted their campaigns to cast votes on the budget plan, which is nonbinding but highlights the difficult choices on taxes and spending facing the next president and Congress. Binding votes on the expiring Bush tax cuts will be left to his successor and the Congress that's elected in November.

The candidates also wanted a chance to vote for a one-year ban on pork-barrel projects, though that late-night Senate effort seemed doomed to defeat. The practice of inserting "earmarked" spending into legislation is seen as a birthright by lawmakers in both parties — and a right under the power of the purse awarded to Congress by the Founding Fathers.

As for the $3 trillion federal budget plans, the House version would provide generous increases to domestic programs but bring the government's ledger back into the black by letting all of Bush's tax cuts expire at the end of 2010 as scheduled. That five-year plan passed the House on a 212-207 vote, with Republicans unanimously opposing it over what they argued was $683 billion in tax increases.

In the Senate, John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting, voted to extend the full roster of tax cuts, which he opposed seven years ago as being tilted in favor of the wealthy. Democratic rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois both voted against them.

Clinton and Obama did vote for $340 billion in tax cuts over five years for middle- and higher-income taxpayers, investors and people inheriting businesses and big estates.

But they joined with Democrats and a couple of maverick Republicans in rejecting, 52-47, an additional $376 billion in extensions of income tax rate cuts, more generous estate tax cuts and relief from the alternative minimum tax.

Republicans hope to use the votes as fodder for the heated presidential campaign and for congressional races. Lawmakers in both parties also were put on record for when the tax cuts actually expire in three years.

Said Republican Rep. Jim McCrery of Louisiana, "Democrats are quietly but very assuredly paving the way for a massive, economy-choking, tax increase."

Democrats said the plans would reverse years of deficits that have piled up during Bush's tenure. They said he squandered trillions of dollars in projected surpluses that were projected when he took office.

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