Senate Democrats Jettison Taxes on Rich for Now

Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:00pm

Senate Democrats are trying a new tack in their quest to pass a jobs bill — dropping the tax increases.

In a bid to win Republican support for a veterans jobs package, Democratic leaders have decided not to attach the tax increase on millionaires, which has accompanied every recent job-creation bill they have offered and which the GOP has repeatedly shot down.

Sen. Patty Murray, chairwoman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee as well as co-chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, told reporters Friday that the veterans package would instead be paid for by savings elsewhere in veterans programs. The Washington Democrat added that the veterans provisions will be attached to a government contractor withholding bill next week.

According to a Senate Democratic aide, Murray worked with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to try to craft a package that could garner bipartisan support and be passed in the Senate by next Friday — Veterans Day.

“Sen. Murray felt very strongly that we had to get something done and she worked with Sen. Reid to put together this comprehensive approach,” the aide said.

Instead of tax increases, the bill would extend current fees on Veterans Affairs home loans and save money on payments to some VA providers.

On a conference call with reporters, Murray called the package “a very critical piece of veterans legislation” and said she had worked closely with House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).

The package, she said, included a bill authored by Miller, Murray’s own bill and President Barack Obama’s proposed tax credit for hiring veterans.

She said she was “hopeful we can at least get it through the Senate” before Veterans Day next Friday, noting that veterans issues have typically not been partisan ones. She noted that even if it passes the Senate next week, final passage will have to wait because the House will be on recess until the week of Nov. 14.

A senior Democratic aide predicted Republicans would capitulate and pass the bill.

“After blocking three jobs bills, Republicans will have no choice but to pass this one, and their past intransigence will make it hard for them to convince the public that they’re doing it out of a sincere commitment to creating jobs — instead of caving to the pressure they’ve been feeling for weeks,” the aide said.

A senior Republican aide said that the GOP hadn’t yet seen the bill, but it would be a change if Democrats drop the tax increases. That’s exactly what the GOP has been demanding all along, and appears — for now — to be getting.

Murray, when asked about her work on the deficit reduction panel, repeated that she still wants “revenue” as part of a deal there.

Other Democratic Senators on the call also made a plea for bipartisanship, arguing that veterans should not be a political issue.

“We’re very serious about trying to get bipartisan support,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who cited higher homelessness and joblessness among veterans.

“It’s just not right,” she said.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who has opposed Obama’s overall $447 billion jobs package, also joined the call to support the veterans piece.

“It is quite frankly shameful that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher unemployment rate than the rest of America,” he said.

Tester noted that the legislation would direct the Department of Labor to look at translating military experience into civilian certifications or licenses that would accelerate veterans’ transitions into the labor force.