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Tax Extenders Vote a Bipartisan Affair

Wyden was one of a bipartisan group opposing the tax extenders package. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Wyden was one of a bipartisan group opposing the tax extenders package. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The final vote on the $41.6 billion tax extenders package was, like the cromnibus last week, a very bipartisan affair.  

Handing out mostly corporate tax breaks and adding to the debt to do it has proven to be a popular thing for Congress. Democrats including President Barack Obama spent the better part of 2013 trying to get Republicans to agree to more revenue as part of a budget deal, but are now signing on to deficit expansion for the sake of tax breaks that will expire, again, in two weeks.  

Usually, these tax breaks — which range from the R&D tax break to breaks for NASCAR, racehorse owners and wind farms — are touted as incentives — and indeed some senators called them that Tuesday. But it’s hard to retroactively incentivize anything — a point made on the Senate floor by outgoing Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who voted no and said the tax bill didn’t even have the shelf life of a carton of eggs. Wyden wanted a two-year deal that he hoped would be a bridge to a broader tax overhaul. But that ended up not being in the cards.  

After President Barack Obama threatened to veto an emerging deal after the midterms that would have added close to half a trillion to the debt over a decade, the scaled-back bill was all Congress could muster.  

The opponents of the bill are an eclectic mix — from liberal Democrats like Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to conservative Republicans. Deficit hawks and liberal groups aren’t typically keen on what they consider corporate welfare by another name; and some groups on the right, like the Club for Growth, believe the tax extenders are part of the worst of Washington back-room dealing and should go away.  

Former club president Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.., voted no.  

So did Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who blasted the package as an unfair Christmas tree.  

“This bill represents the worst habits in Washington. Politicians in a lame duck, end-of-the-year session, passing out goodies to well-connected industries instead of lowering tax rates for all Americans.” Coburn said in an emailed statement accompanied by a picture of a tree with dollar bills attached. “For each of these that benefit only one company or industry, other taxpayers must pay more.”  

Other Republicans voting no include Dan Coats of Indiana, Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, Jeff Flake of Arizona, former OMB director Rob Portman of Ohio, Jim Risch of Idaho and Tim Scott of South Carolina.  

Six Democrats voted no in addition to Wyden and Warren: Michael Bennet of Colorado, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.  

Eight senators didn’t vote — Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont, and Republicans Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Mike Lee of Utah.  

Everyone else voted aye.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., touted provisions important to Nevada, like an extension of the sales tax deduction, and mortgage debt forgiveness.  

And he said he hopes Republicans will work with Democrats next year to make many of the tax cuts permanent.  

The president is expected to sign the bill.  

Sarah Chacko contributed to this report.

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