Tax Package Heads For High Stakes House Vote

By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A massive tax package that would save millions of Americans thousands of dollars in higher taxes is headed for a vote in the House Thursday even as rebellious Democrats complain it is too generous to the wealthy.

House Democratic leaders plan to pass the bill Thursday. But first, they will hold a vote on imposing a higher estate tax than the one negotiated by President Barack Obama.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the package Wednesday with broad bipartisan support. Now, Obama is urging the House to pass it without changes, so he can sign it into law.

"I know that not every member of Congress likes every piece of this bill, and it includes some provisions that I oppose," Obama said. "But as a whole, this package will grow our economy, create jobs, and help middle class families across the country.

"As this bill moves to the House of Representatives, I hope that members from both parties can come together in a spirit of common purpose to protect American families and our economy as a whole by passing this essential economic package," Obama said.

The stakes are high as the House begins debate. If the House passes the higher estate tax, the bill would go back to the Senate, jeopardizing the entire package and representing a public rebuke of Obama by members of his own party.

A vote is expected Thursday afternoon.

Many House Democrats, even critics of the bill, are resigned to it ultimately passing with the lower estate tax, especially after the Senate passed it, 81-19.

"The overwhelming vote in the Senate should bring everyone to religion," said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J. But, he added, "Let's have a tangible signal that we really feel that this is unreasonable, what we're doing in terms of the estate tax."

Tax cuts affecting Americans at every income level are scheduled to expire Jan. 1 — a little more than two weeks away. The package would extend them for two years.

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