WASHINGTON, June 12 (UPI) -- The House on Thursday passed part of a series of measures that would make some tax breaks for small businesses permanent.
The two tax breaks, of 12 in a $614 billion package, have been extended on a temporary basis for years and would cost $75 billion.
The tax code includes more than 50 temporary provisions, and Republicans say making some of the most popular, including the one considered Thursday that allows businesses to immediately write off equipment purchases, helps give small business owners a measure of certainty.
Republicans used that argument to justify passing the tax breaks without offsets, and over a Senate bill that would extend the tax breaks for two years and $3.4 billion, as efforts for a tax code overhaul have fallen apart.
"It's time to make it a permanent part of the tax code," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. "Why not do something good for America? What we really need is permanent policy."
Democrats, who mostly voted against the measure (although several dozen joined Republicans in voting for it), punted to a previous proposal from Camp that would have closed other loopholes to pay for the extension.
"What happened to all the rhetoric about fiscal discipline, about getting our deficits in order? Out the window," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking member on the Budget Committee.
At a press conference ahead of the vote, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ticked off a list of other potential investments -- all Democratic priorities -- whose costs are dwarfed by the total tax package.
At $614 billion, she said, the tax bill is 60 times as much as it would cost to pass the extension of emergency unemployment insurance, seven times the combined yearly investment in education, job training and social services, and 10 times the budget for veterans.
It's even higher than the projected deficit for 2014 -- $492 billion -- which she noted had fallen under President Obama.
"It's really so interesting to see: We must have unemployment insurance extension paid for, but hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks not paid for," she said.
"It was just another example of the Republican agenda focusing on doing what they need to do for millionaires, at the expense of the middle class," she said. "Instead of working to create American jobs and strengthening the economy for everyone, Republicans are continuing their double standard of adding billions to the deficit."
House Speaker John Boehner said it was in fact Democrats who had their priorities backwards.
"Senate Democrats continue to sit on their hands and failing to act on the dozens of [House-passed] jobs bills that are sitting over in the Senate," he said. "But guess what? So long as the American people continue to ask the question 'Where are the jobs?' we're going to continue to be focused not this one issue."