After a brief debate on Sunday, leaders of the House of Representatives indicated that they would not take up the Senate bill approved last week by a vote of 93 to 2 extending expiring tax breaks for individuals and businesses and a temporary "patch" for the alternative minimum tax (AMT), before the end of the year. The two houses of Congress are deadlocked over tax policy, with fiscal conservatives in the House requiring revenue offsets for the approximately $60 billion in extensions and the AMT "patch" under their "paygo" rules. Senate Republicans and the President are opposed to tax increases, but approved some revenue offsets in the compromise Senate bill, which the President has said he will sign.
If Congress cannot agree to a one-year "patch" to the alternative minimum tax for 2008, approximately 20 million more Americans would fall into the AMT, and could end up owing an additional $2,000, the Associated Press reports.
The original House bills extending the tax breaks 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. The Senate bill incorporated the House extension of numerous expiring tax breaks including deductions for state and local taxes, education and teacher expenses, the research and development credit and the AMT patch, along with incentives for renewable energy resources and tax breaks for disaster victims, but did not include revenue offsets for all of the extensions or the AMT patch.
Following the Senate vote on Tuesday last week, the House again passed four bills in three days to extend the tax breaks, but Senate leaders said they would not consider any new bills, cqpolitics.com says.
Depending on the outcome of negotiations surrounding the financial rescue plan, the House is scheduled to adjourn this week until after the election and may not take up the AMT or expiring tax deductions and credits again until next year.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D Md.) told reporters that, "I'm going to continue to work with the Senate...to see what can be done, even if it's next year," according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
"The IRS is going to have a huge problem if the AMT is not passed now," said Senator Max Baucus of (D MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who managed the Senate package for the Democrats. The IRS will begin printing 2008 forms in November.
Rep. Hoyer "indirectly criticized the Senate leadership for waiting until Monday morning -- hours before the House was set to adjourn -- to send to the House the tax package passed by the Senate last Tuesday," the Journal reports. Hoyer suggested that it was an effort to steamroll the House, calling the move "legislating by blunt force."
"The larger issue is the House and Senate just don't talk to one another and work out an understanding," Baucus said, according to a CCH report. "They're in their little world and we're in our little world, instead of just sitting down like adults, both sides --House and Senate, and working out solutions."
Evolution of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008: