I Didn’t Think this Would Make it Through the Senate

From the NYT, among others: “Republicans Woo Moderates on Tax Cut“. It looks like the Republicans have 50 votes in the Senate, with Dick Cheney holding the tie-breaking 51st, for an amendment to replace the Grassley-proposed and Senate Finance Committee approved version of the dividend tax cut. Zell Miller voted for the tax cut (as I predicted here), and Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska (Red State) also will vote ‘aye’. Voinovich gave in to pressure and agreed to vote yes, stating “[this plan] gets the biggest bang for the buck that we can possibly get” (rather Panglossian).

Technically, Voinovich did not reverse course as the plan comes in at $350b. Of course it only achieved that number via the dishonest accounting of sunset provisions: 1/2 of dividend income is excluded from taxation in 2004, followed by 100% of dividend income from 2005-2007, at which point the exclusion will in principle sunset (so the 10-year cost of the tax cut uses the assumption that dividends will be taxed from 2008 onward). Still, this plan will cost much more in lost revenues than Grassley’s. How did they add this cut and still keep under $350b?

The more robust dividend plan shaves tax cuts for married couples and small businesses to make room for more dividend breaks in the bill, which cuts taxes $350 billion over the coming decade [according to Sen. Don Nickles (R-Ok)].


Olympia Snow held her ground (“My position hasn’t changed”). And the story didn’t say, but it looks like Chafee and Collins also stood firm (48 Democrats + Jeffords + Chafee + Collins + Snow – Miller – Nelson = 50).


X-Posted at ISTES.

UPDATE: Via A Taxing Blog, this Brookings Institute analysis of three tax cut options–$726b, $550b, and $350b (“Our overarching conclusion is that the Administration, House, and Senate Finance Committee proposals are seriously flawed and are strikingly removed from the economy’s current and long-term problems”). It’s good, if very slightly wonky.