The U.S. House of Representatives passed President Obama’s compromise bill to extend the Bush tax cuts in full for two years and federal unemployment benefits for one year late last night after first rejecting an amendment to change the estate tax provisions of the agreement.
The day began with a minor Democratic revolt against the rules established for the vote. Those rules initially would have allowed a vote on a single amendment to the estate tax provisions and then deemed the larger bill to have passed if that amendment fails.
Many of the more liberal Democratic opponents of the bill rejected those rules, demanding a chance for a final up or down vote on the overall bill itself. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave in and agreed to change the rules to first take a vote on the estate tax amendment, then a final vote on the overall bill as well.
The first vote, on the estate tax amendment offered by Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., took place around 11:30 p.m. That amendment would have taxed all estates worth more than $3.5 million at 45 percent; the original bill set the rate at 35 percent for all estates over $5 million. The Pomeroy amendment failed by a 233-194 vote.
The House then immediately moved to a vote on the full bill as passed by the Senate around 11:45 and it was passed easily with majority support from both parties. The final vote was 277-148.
Once President Obama signs the bill, federal unemployment benefits will be extended through the end of 2011. That means those who have not yet exhausted all of their maximum available weeks of unemployment benefits will once again be eligible for the next tier. The bill does not extend any new tiers of unemployment benefits for those who have exhausted all of their benefits, up to a maximum of 99 weeks in some states, including Michigan.
The bill also extends the Bush tax cuts for two years, including the cuts for the wealthiest Americans. President Obama campaigned on a platform of extending only those tax cuts for those who make less than $250,000 a year but he negotiated a deal with the Senate Republican leadership to extend all of the tax cuts in exchange for an extension of the unemployment benefits as well.
Though the Democratic Caucus in the House initially objected to that deal and held a non-binding vote to reject it, once the Senate passed it easily on Wednesday the pressure was too much for the Democrats to hold the line on the issue. Faced with the prospect of seeing taxes go up on all Americans on Jan. 1 and having the incoming Republican-controlled House pass a much worse deal, a majority of House Democrats chose to go along with a bill they did not fully support.
Florida’s congressional delegation largely supported the bill, but Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis and Connie Mack, and Democratic Reps. Corrine Brown, Alan Grayson, Alcee Hastings and Allen Boyd all voted against it.
Republican Reps. Vern Buchanan, Ginny Brown-Waite, Cliff Stearns, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, John Mica, Ander Crenshaw, Jeff Miller, Tom Rooney, Adam Putnam, Bill Posey and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all voted in favor of the bill, as did Democratic Reps. Kendrick Meek, Kathy Castor, Ron Klein, Suzanne Kosmas, Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Rep. Bill Young, R-Seminole, did not vote.