‘Buf­fett rule’ fails its first test in Congress

GOP ad­vances bud­get bill by 19-18 vote

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

House Repub­li­cans on the Bud­get Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day re­jected an ef­fort to im­pose the “Buf­fett rule” tax on Amer­i­cans, ar­gu­ing it would sti­fle in­vest­ment with­out do­ing any work to lower the deficit.

The vote came as the panel worked its way through the House GOP’S bud­get, re­leased ear­lier this week, which draws the broad out­lines of a re­write of the tax code and ma­jor cuts to gov­ern­ment spend­ing — all with an eye to get­ting fed­eral deficits in line in fu­ture decades.

Late Wed­nes­day the bill barely cleared the com­mit­tee on a 19-18 vote, with two Repub­li­cans de­fect­ing to join Democrats in vot­ing against it. Re­pub­li­can Reps. Tim Huel­skamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of Michi­gan, both tea party sup­port­ers, said the bud­get didn’t go far enough.

Pres­i­dent Obama and his con­gres­sional al­lies have made the Buf­fett rule a chief part of their po­lit­i­cal mes­sag­ing this year, ar­gu­ing that it’s a key part of any fair ef­fort to bal­ance the bud­get.

“Any­one who thinks we don’t have a rev­enue prob­lem is not look­ing at this in a bal­anced way,” said Rep. John A. Yar­muth, the Ken­tucky Demo­crat who of­fered the pro­posal.

The tax — named af­ter bil­lion­aire War­ren Buf­fett, who fa­mously urged the gov­ern­ment to raise his taxes so he pays the same rate as his sec­re­tary — would im­pose a min­i­mum 30 per­cent rate on in­di­vid­ual tax­pay­ers with in­comes greater than $500,000, or cou­ples with in­comes top­ping $1 mil­lion.

The pro­posal was de­feated 22-15, and didn’t even win all of the Democrats on the bud­get panel. Rep. Heath Shuler, a re­tir­ing North Carolina Demo­crat, voted with Repub­li­cans to re­ject it.

Repub­li­cans cited a re­port re­leased late Tues­day by Congress’ Joint Com­mit­tee on Tax­a­tion, which cal­cu­lates of­fi­cial rev­enue es­ti­mates for law­mak­ers, as proof the Demo­cratic pro­posal was po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing. The anal­y­sis found that the tax would raise about $47 bil­lion dur­ing the next decade, less than 1 per­cent of the deficits Mr. Obama’s bud­get would pro­duce over that same pe­riod.

“This is a po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ment. This is not a gen­uine deficit ar­gu­ment,” said Rep. John Camp­bell, Cal­i­for­nia Re­pub­li­can.

Democrats tapped the Buf­fett rule for a num­ber of the amend­ments they of­fered in com­mit­tee Wed­nes­day, and each of them met with de­feat. Still, it’s likely Democrats will try to re­vive the plan as part of a bud­get al­ter­na­tive they’ll of­fer on the House floor next week, and Se­nate Democrats could try to ar­range a vote in their cham­ber, too.

The House Repub­li­cans’ bud­get is likely to drive the con­gres­sional agenda for the next few weeks. The plan in­cludes Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan’s pro­posal to have se­niors choose be­tween Medi­care and a set of pri­vate plans in a health ex­change.

Democrats tried to undo that change Wed­nes­day, say­ing it broke the gov­ern­ment’s prom­ise to se­niors on Medi­care. But Repub­li­cans de­feated that amend­ment, 20-13.

Other amend­ments to change ed­u­ca­tion, Medi­care pre­scrip­tion drug cov­er­age and Med­i­caid pro­vi­sions also failed.

Mr. Obama re­leased his bud­get last month, but it has got­ten lit­tle trac­tion on Capi­tol Hill.

Democrats, who con­trol the Se­nate, have said they won’t pass a bud­get in the up­per cham­ber this year, though they said they will abide by the up­per lim­its on non-en­ti­tle­ment spend­ing that were in­cluded in last year’s debt deal.

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