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House Dems try to force tax vote

Dec. 4, 2012 at 2:29 PM  |  Updated Dec. 4, 2012 at 12:20 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. House Democrats Tuesday ratcheted up the pressure on the looming "fiscal cliff," filing a petition to force a vote on a Senate tax bill.

House Democrats want a vote on a Senate bill that would keep the Bush-era tax cuts on all income up to $250,000 but allow those rates to expire on income exceeding that amount.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., filed a petition to force the vote at noon. It needs 218 signatures to move the measure to the House floor, The Hill reported. Democrats need a dozen Republicans to sign to help force the effort.

The move came one day after Republicans offered up a plan for avoiding the "fiscal cliff," the confluence of tax cut expirations and across-the-board spending cuts due to kick in Jan. 1.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with a bipartisan group of state governors at the White House Tuesday morning.

The governors -- reported by Politico to be the National Governors Association's executive committee -- were to meet with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in the afternoon, Boehner's office said.

The executive committee -- led by Delaware's Democratic Gov. Jack Markell and Oklahoma's Republican Gov. Mary Fallin -- includes Democrats Mike Beebe of Arkansas, John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Mark Dayton of Minnesota, and Republicans Dave Heineman of Nebraska, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gary Herbert of Utah and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

The NGA requested the meeting, Politico said.

"I think that governors have a lot at stake in this process," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "They have an interest in seeing Washington get its fiscal house in order. They have an interest in seeing Washington take action to ensure that the economy continues to grow. I think governors, broadly speaking, have a keen interest in, for example, Washington making wise investments in rebuilding our infrastructure. They obviously have a stake in our healthcare entitlement programs, including, of course, Medicaid.

"And what governors have in common with the president of the United States is that they're chief executives," Carney said. "They understand -- they run things and they're very practical and pragmatic about it, by and large. That's sometimes a distinction between governors and lawmakers on Capitol Hill."

Monday's GOP proposal was swiftly rejected by the White House.

"The Republican letter ... does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement after Boehner and other House Republicans including Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., submitted the offer.

Obama and Senate Democrats have said without a deal to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans there is no path forward to avert the cliff.

Monday's proposal would make $600 billion in cuts in Medicare and other health programs over 10 years, compared with Obama's $350 billion proposal.

It would slow the growth of Social Security benefits and make contentious changes to Medicare and Medicaid. In addition, it said $800 billion in revenue could be raised without raising tax rates, by closing loopholes and deductions in a broad tax-code rewrite.

"Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve," Pfeiffer said.

Boehner called his plan "credible" and said it deserved "serious consideration by the White House."

The GOP offer is in response to a White House plan presented to congressional leaders by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week. GOP leaders dismissed that plan, saying they would not take seriously a plan that includes $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue without comparable spending cuts or entitlement changes.

Republicans said their counter-proposal was based on a framework outlined last year by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, who co-chaired Obama's debt commission.

Bowles immediately distanced himself from the Republican proposal.

"While I'm flattered the speaker would call something 'the Bowles plan,' the approach outlined in the letter Speaker Boehner sent to the president does not represent the Simpson-Bowles plan, nor is it the Bowles plan," Bowles said in a statement.

"Every offer put forward brings us closer to a deal, but to reach an agreement, it will be necessary for both sides to move beyond their opening positions and reach agreement on a comprehensive plan which avoids the fiscal cliff and puts the debt on a clear downward path relative to the economy," Bowles' statement said.

Officials said Obama and congressional leaders could meet by the end of this week. Their last meeting was nearly three weeks ago.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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