The House on Thursday night voted on the $858 billion tax cut package negotiated by the White House and Republican leaders. Lawmakers in both parties expressed unhappiness with aspects of the package, but the House passed it 277-148 and sent it to the President for signature. On Wednesday, the Senate had overwhelmingly approved the measure by a vote of 81-19. Results of the House and Senate votes are available at http://bit.ly/fVJM4o and http://bit.ly/eBs1iS. According to The New York Times, many Democrats opposed provisions granting tax cuts to the highest earners, as well as an exemption for estates of up to $5 million per person, or $10 million per couple. However, Republicans said they would not accept any change. Another tax reduction, a one-year payroll tax cut, would lower from 6.2% to 4.2% the Social Security tax levied on income up to $106,800. The government would then borrow about $112 billion to make Social Security whole. Workers making $50,000 in wages would get a $1,000 tax cut; those making $100,000 would get a $2,000 cut. The deal would also extend unemployment benefits at their current level for 13 months, through the end of 2011. “Seniors worry – with good reason - that relying on borrowed money could eventually force the Social Security program to compete with other federal programs for scarce dollars, leading to cuts,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. Last Friday, the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, comprised of 250 organizations and representing more than 50 million members from many of the nation’s leading aging, labor, and civil rights organizations - including the Alliance - sent a letter to Congress regarding the Social Security payroll tax cut. The letter urged Congress to oppose the tax “holiday.” To see it, go to http://bit.ly/gakc4Y.
Also last week, a group of Senate Democrats, led by Sens. Jeff Merkley (OR) and Mary Landrieu (LA), pushed for an alternative tax cut agreement that strengthens Social Security rather than providing bonus tax cuts on income over $1 million. To see the Senators’ letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), go to http://bit.ly/i6sQGZ.