Could Tax Sweeteners Bring Rebel Dems on Board?


The Senate released the details of its tax bill on Thursday—legislation that conforms to President Obama’s deal to preserve the Bush tax cuts and water down the estate tax, with a hefty (unpaid for) price tag of $858 billion. The bill is now expected to pass the Senate, particularly as it includes an extension of ethanol subsidies that’s likely to bring along Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and other farm-state senators previously critical of the deal.

The House Dems haven’t let up their fierce protest against the bill, despite the growing consensus from both White House officials and Democratic legislators themselves that they won’t be able to stop it. But within the Senate bill itself, there are other sweeteners for Democrats that might help quell the rebellion on the House side. The Wall Street Journal explains: “The package extends a program of cash grants for wind and solar projects, as well as tax credits for energy-efficient appliances, although at reduced, pre-stimulus levels. It includes favorable tax treatment for mass-transit benefits for employees.” And Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) admitted to Politico that the clean energy sweeteners would be positively received: “That is the most important addition… A lot of our members wanted it. It was excluded from the original bargain. The fact that it was added is a good thing.”

Such minor tweaks aren’t likely to sway the liberal wing of the House Democrats, most of whom will likely still vote against the bill. But the sweeteners could help bring a few more moderate members aboard and perhaps take a bit of the edge off the resentment that the House Dems have directed toward the White House.

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  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.