House of Representatives
The day many states have been waiting for came yesterday, as the Census Bureau released population figures that will determine which will gain or lose congressional seats:
Republican-leaning states will gain at least a half dozen House seats thanks to the 2010 census, which found the nation’s population growing more slowly than in past decades but still shifting to the South and West.
The Census Bureau announced Tuesday that the nation’s population on April 1 was 308,745,538, up from 281.4 million a decade ago. The growth rate for the past decade was 9.7 percent, the lowest since the Great Depression. The nation’s population grew by 13.2 percent from 1990 to 2000.
The new numbers are a boon for Republicans, with Texas leading the way among GOP-leaning states that will gain House seats, mostly at the Rust Belt’s expense. Following each once-a-decade census, the nation must reapportion the House’s 435 districts to make them roughly equal in population, with each state getting at least one seat.
That triggers an often contentious and partisan process in many states, which will draw new congressional district lines that can help or hurt either party.
In all, the census figures show a shift affecting 18 states taking effect when the 113th Congress takes office in 2013.
Texas will gain four new House seats, and Florida will gain two. Gaining one each are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.
Ohio and New York will lose two House seats each. Losing one House seat are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Late last night, the House of Representatives passed extension of currents tax rates and unemployment benefits by a vote of 277 to 148, despite a failed effort by Democrats to increase the Death Tax from 35% to 45%:
A tax-cut compromise between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans – a harbinger of a new era of divided government in Washington – cleared the House around midnight Thursday, sending the $858 billion bill to the president’s desk.
The bill, which passed 277 to 148, provides a two-year extension for all tax cuts that were due to expire Dec. 31 – including for families earning more than $250,000 a year — and extends unemployment insurance benefits through next year. It also sets estate tax rates at 35 percent, with an exemption on the first $5 million.
In the end, the House vote wasn’t close, with 139 Democrats joining 138 Republicans to approve the bill. The Senate passed the bill comfortably as well Wednesday, 81 to 19.
The bill represented a major shift for Obama, as he abandoned an oft-repeated campaign promise that he would end the policy of cutting taxes for the wealthy. But the House Republican landslide in the midterm elections – a “shellacking,” Obama called it – forced the president to cut a deal so middle-class families didn’t see a tax hike on his watch, even though it infuriated his liberal base.
The rhetoric on the floor of the House was testy at times, but in the end 139 Democrats voted for extension of the tax cuts, which is one more than the number of Republicans voting for the bill.
By a vote of 81 to 19, the United States Senate has passed the tax deal between President Barack Obama and Republicans, which will extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, unemployment benefits and tax credits and enact a one-year payroll tax holiday.
The package will now move on to the House where it will likely be taken up tomorrow. It’s unclear whether or not House Democrats will be able to make the desired changes to the Death Tax; they deem a 35% take rate to be “too generous.”
The 19 “no” votes are:
- Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
- Tom Coburn (R-OK)
- Jim DeMint (R-SC)
- Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
- John Ensign (R-NV)
- Russ Feingold (D-WI)
- Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
- Kay Hagan (D-NC)
- Tom Harkin (D-IA)
- Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
- Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
- Carl Levin (D-MI)
- Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
- Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
- Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
- Mark Udall (D-CO)
- Tom Udall (D-NM)
- George Voinovich (R-OH)
- Ron Wyden (D-OR)
The proposal to extend the Bush-era tax rates will proceed.
The Senate reached the 60 votes needed to move forward with President Obama’s $858 billion plan to extend the current income tax rates Monday afternoon. It ultimately passed 83-15.
The measure would extend the Bush-era tax rates for two years in return for a 13-month extension of federal unemployment benefits. The package also will set the estate tax rate at 35 percent for assets beyond $5 million.
Five Republicans, nine Democrats and one independent have cast dissenting votes, including Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spent more than eight hours on the Senate floor last Friday railing against the deal. Nevada Sen. John Ensign, who joined Republicans Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio to vote against cloture, has said he opposes the measure because the unemployment benefits in the package are not paid for.
A slate of liberal Democrats who have staunchly supported a tax increase for the wealthy also supported the vote to move toward final passage. New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Michigan Sen. Deborah Stabenow and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, all fierce opponents of the Bush tax rates, cast a “yea” vote.
Despite tough talk by House Democrats on the $858 billion tax deal brokered between President Barack Obama and Republicans, it appears that it will come to the floor for a vote after all - though they are taking issue with the plans to knock the increase in the Death Tax from 35% instead of the planned increase to 55%:
The assistant to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday that President Obama’s tax compromise with Republicans will come to the House floor, despite House Democrats vowing to block the deal in a heated caucus meeting last week.
But Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that, even though the White House has said that the deal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts isn’t open to negotiation, House Democrats are still going to make an effort to lop out at least one controversial provision: the estate tax.
He insisted that Senate Republicans, in striking the deal with the president, had not insisted on a provision of setting the tax of 35 percent on estates over $5 million as a “central portion of this deal.” Many Democrats are furious about the rate and want a 45 percent levy on $3.5 million estates and greater.
The last outstanding race of the 2010 mid-term election ended yesterday in NY-1 as Randy Altschuler conceeded to his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tim Bishop:
Republican Randy Altschuler conceded to Rep. Tim Bishop Wednesday morning, ending the last unresolved Congressional race in the nation.
Altschuler, a St. James businessman who poured $2.8 million of his own money into the race, congratulated Bishop (D-Southampton) and said he would not seek a full hand recount of the nearly 200,000 ballots cast.
Altschuler trailed Bishop by at least 263 votes with less than 1,000 uncounted absentee ballots.
This means that Republicans picked up 63 seats in the House of Representatives in the mid-term.
Republicans have been busy since their historic gains in the mid-term election. They’ve adopted new rules on transparency, setting a tentative schedule for 2011 and setting the list of chairmen for the new Congress:
On Tuesday, House leaders picked Harold Rogers of Kentucky, a member of the Appropriations Committee since 1983, to lead the panel, over Jerry Lewis of California, a former chairman, and Jack Kingston of Georgia. They also named Fred Upton of Michigan over Joe L. Barton of Texas to win back the chairmanship on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles health care.
For my friends disappointed in passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, we may get another chance to let members of Congress know how we feel about the bill because the Senate violated Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution, which expressly states that revenue generating legislation must originate in the House:
By pre-empting the House’s tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House, but House Democrats are expected to use a procedure known as “blue slipping” to block the bill, according to House and Senate GOP aides.
The debacle could prove to be a major embarrassment for Senate Democrats, who sought Tuesday to make the relatively unknown bill a major political issue by sending out numerous news releases trumpeting its passage.
Section 107 of the bill includes a set of fees that are classified as revenue raisers, which are technically taxes under the Constitution. According to a House GOP leadership aide, that section has ruffled the feathers of Ways and Means Committee Democrats, who are expected to use the blue slip process to block completion of the bill.
“We understand there is a blue slip problem, and we expect the House to assert its rights under the Constitution to be the place where revenue bills begin,” the GOP aide said.
The House of Representatives will vote today on extending tax cuts for the lower and middle class, but not on cuts for Americans with higher incomes, which includes many small business owners that file as a sole proprietor or S-Corp:
House lawmakers will vote Thursday morning on whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class – leaving the feud over whether to do the same for wealthy Americans up in the air.
“I’m hopeful that we will able to pass that bill unanimously because the American public wants us to find places for agreement,” the House majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, said on Wednesday. “It is a shame that what we have agreement on is being held hostage by that on which we do not agree.”
Mr. Hoyer has the votes, but the bill has virtually no chance in the Senate. Republican senators have pledged to halt all lame-duck legislative activity until an agreement is reached on the tax cuts and on funding for the government.
All sides are promising to hold firm on their positions - though surveys indicate that Democrats are divided on this issue - with incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) promising that House Republicans would not support anything other than extension of all tax cuts:
Yesterday on the floor of the House, Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) got upset, and rightfully so, when Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA), who was presiding over the House at the time, refused to recognize him to speak on the floor on what he saw as an abuse of the legislative process.
Buyer points out that no one was on the floor to object to him speaking, but Richardson was using her own discretion to keep him from speaking. He told Richardson, “This is why the American people have thrown you out of power.”
Here is video of the exchange: