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Bipartisan Senate passes tax bill

  |   Dec. 15, 2010 at 1:30 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate, in a rare display of sweeping bipartisanship, approved a tax package negotiated by President Obama and congressional Republicans Wednesday.

The vote was 81-19. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The House schedule for Wednesday released by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer included the item, "Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 ... (If amended by the Senate)"

Before the vote the Senate refused to allow several amendments offered by members of both parties to be considered. None of the measures got the required two-thirds majority to be voted up or down by the chamber.

The bill itself required only a simple majority to pass.

The package would extend for two years lower tax rates enacted during George W. Bush's administration that are set to expire Dec. 31, extend unemployment benefits for 13 months, cut the payroll tax by 2 percent for a year, lower a restored estate tax and extend several tax breaks included in the 2009 economic stimulus package.

The defeated measures included one offered by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would have offset the cost of extending unemployment benefits by reducing duplicated spending.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., offered an amendment that would have ended the tax rate for the wealthiest 2 percent of taxpayers, using half of the savings to pay down the deficit. It also would have given a one-year extension of the "Making America Work" credit in place of the payroll tax holiday, among other things.

Also defeated was a motion by Sen. James DeMint, R-S.C., to permanently extend all of the current tax rates, repeal the estate tax and permanently patch the alternative minimum tax.

Hoyer said the lower chamber ultimately would pass the bill, but may amend the estate tax provision. However, more than two dozen moderate Democrats sent a letter to House leadership, calling for the tax package to be passed unchanged so it can go to Obama for his signature. If the bill is changed, it would have to go back to the Senate for reconsideration.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned House Democratic leaders any partisan changes to the bill would "ensure that every American taxpayer will see a job-killing tax hike on Jan. 1."

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