Reported with Billy House
With just two more weeks until the congressional recess, both chambers are gearing up to take largely symbolic votes on extending the Bush-era tax cuts. Senate Democrats plan to vote this week on a package that will temporarily extend the tax cuts for families whose income falls at $250,000 or below.
The bill will never make it to the president's desk, but Democrats hope the debate resonates with voters. Polls show that voters generally support extending the tax cuts for the middle class, but not for the wealthy.
While Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., have said they will oppose the bill, Senate Democratic leaders are confident that they will win a majority in the chamber. Democrats think they shored up support for the measure by removing a provision that raises the estate tax above the current rate.
The vote will cap a series of symbolic Senate votes on measures lawmakers know will fail. The chamber last week failed to advance a bill that would have pushed to return outsourced jobs to the U.S., and a campaign finance disclosure bill went nowhere. The chamber turns next week to a cybersecurity bill that Democrats hope to pass.
Over in the GOP-controlled House, Republican leaders say a vote on their bill to extend all of the Bush-era lowered tax rates won't come up until July 30.
Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam, R-Ill., also has announced that Democrats will be given a chance to offer an amendment, such as President Obama's plan, as a way to provide for open debate on two "competing views" of how to create economic growth. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told Roskam he was pleased to hear that, and that "hopefully that amendment will be allowed some significant period of time for debate."
Look for other messaging votes, like one on a GOP-bill placing a moratorium on agencies from taking any significant regulatory action--significant defined as having annual cost to the economy of $100 million or more--until the unemployment rate averages 6 percent or less for an entire quarter. But critics say this could effectively shut down agencies whose roles are to improve and protect health, safety, or the environment--or protect against another financial meltdown.
House Republican leaders also have scheduled action on a bill to replace President Obama's Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Leasing Program with one that includes more sales.