Congress Adjournment

September 29, 2008

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Congress moves to adjourn with no deal on AMT

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer 25 minutes ago – Thank you.

WASHINGTON – The House prepared to adjourn for the year Monday with no deal on a major tax relief package, increasing the odds that businesses will lose out on critical tax breaks and millions could get hit by the alternative minimum tax this year.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., suggested that it might be next year before consensus can be reached on a tax initiative that includes adjusting the AMT, providing tax relief to disaster victims and extending tax credits for renewable energy development, business investment and individual education and child care costs.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate stressed that the bill would create tens of thousands of jobs and contribute to the nation’s energy independence. But House Democrats insisted that more of the package, totaling $138 billion in House bills, be paid for so as not to increase the deficit. Senate Republicans, averse to new taxes, said any changes in the Senate-passed tax bill would kill the entire package.

The House “has taken the morally and fiscally responsible position,” said Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., a leader of the 49-member Blue Dogs, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats. Meanwhile, “Republicans in the Senate continue to hold up this important legislation,” he said.

As Ross spoke, across the Capitol Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., tried to bring up a House-passed bill dealing with renewable energy and extension of business and individual tax breaks that expired last year or will lapse at the end of this year. Republicans objected to consideration of the bill.

Reid acknowledged that “we can’t get it done” because Senate Democrats don’t have the votes to move the bill without GOP cooperation. He said he hoped the Blue Dogs “would understand we are not trying to embarrass them or anyone else.”

Hoyer, joining the Blue Dogs at a news conference, said “there’s not an intention” to return to Washington after the House votes on the financial bailout bill and adjourns Monday afternoon.
“I’m going to continue to work with Sen. Reid to see what can be done even if it is next year,” he said.

That delay would be a blow, at least temporarily, to a wide group of business and individual taxpayers. Without congressional action, those affected by the AMT, originally aimed at just a few very rich tax dodgers, would grow from around 4 million to up to 26 million. Those hit by the tax, most earning less than $200,000, would pay an average extra tax of $2,000.

The solar industry alone has estimated that it could create more than 400,000 jobs if it receives an eight-year extension of its investment tax credit.

“With hundreds of thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in clean energy investment at risk, we urge congressional leaders not to leave for the election recess” until reaching an agreement, the CEOs of national hydropower, geothermal, solar and wind energy associations said in a statement.

Business groups have warned of serious repercussions if Congress does not renew the R&D credit, which expired at the end of last year, and various advocacy groups have pleaded for renewals of individual tax breaks affecting those paying college tuition, those from states with state and local sales taxes and teachers with out-of-pocket expenses.

The Senate last week, on a 93-2 vote, passed a massive package that included AMT relief, $8 billion in tax relief for those hit by natural disasters in the Midwest, Texas and Louisiana, and some $78 billion in renewal energy incentives and extensions of expiring tax breaks. In a compromise worked out with Republicans, the bill does not pay for the AMT and disaster provisions but does have revenue offsets for part of the energy and extension measures.

That wasn’t enough for the House, which insisted that there be complete offsets for the energy and extension part of the package.

Fiscal irresponsibility was a major factor in Wall Street’s meltdown and the need for Congress to step in with a bailout plan, said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif. “It’s time for us to say no more.”
The House included steps to boost tax revenues from the oil and gas industries and close loopholes used by hedge fund managers and corporations to avoid taxes on their overseas incomes.
Senators also included in their bill a far-reaching measure to ensure parity in insurance benefits for mental health problems.

Review and Analysis: The democratic society exercise voting rights to elect a representative in Congress and Senate to address issues affecting their daily lives and pass necessary legislation to primarily benefit the people through businesses and other economic infrastructure.

The legislators’ “priorities” from the above article should be of concern to the constituents. Their decision to leave for the election recess “after having returned from a long recess in August”, without reaching an agreement on issues like energy independence, tax relief to millions in small businesses, education and childcare costs reflects minimal importance to major economic crisis.

With election around the corner, it is important for legislators to recognize their obligations to the electorate and fulfill the commitments in restoring the nation back on track. In a gloomy economic climate, that is saddled with multi-trillion dollar debt conveniently passed on to the hard working lower and middle income groups struggling to meet ends, vacation should be the last thing on the mind of the lawmakers.

The electorate should demand that their elected officials resolve all of the above issues related to tax initiative that includes adjusting the AMT, providing tax relief to disaster victims and extending tax credits for renewable energy development, business investment and individual education and childcare costs with no further procrastination.

To quote the House Speaker “Nancy Pelosi” at the announcement of bailout deal “The Party is over” not just for the “Wall Street” but the entire “Power” specifically elected for policymaking and solving problems confronting the nation at all fronts.

When the “Presidential candidates” are advocating “performance based” salaries for “teachers” and others , the same principle should apply to “Washington” and “Wall Street” that are primarily responsible for the current economic mess.

The voter frustration and disappointment with “Washington” and “Wall Street” should be clearly demonstrated in the forthcoming electoral process.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant


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