White House wants Buffett Rule vote

April 9, 2012 at 6:35 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 9 (UPI) -- A Senate vote next week on the so-called Buffett Rule on taxing the wealthy opens a door to broader tax reform discussions, a White House spokesman said Monday.

It also will mean senators' position about how much tax the wealthy should pay will be on the record, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday during his daily media briefing.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., introduced a bill that would require taxpayers with annual income above $1 million to pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent. The rule is named for Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who has said he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, and that he thought he and other similarly wealthy taxpayers should pay more.

"I would simply note two things," Carney said.

"One, the piece of legislation we're talking about here on its face has broad support across the country," he said. "Two, there is an opportunity here, because of the 60-vote threshold, to demonstrate Republicans listen to their constituents."

"That's what votes do -- they put senators on record," Carney said. "We will certainly see how senators handle that, the opportunity to vote on the so-called Buffett Rule. The goal is the passage of the resolution."

The measure also allows for a broader discussion on tax reform, the spokesman said.

"When we talk about proposed tax reform, as in the [House Budget Committee Chairman Paul] Ryan Republican budget that suggests that we can lower rates, which is a fine idea," but then doesn't address how his budget proposal would be paid for, saying the Ways and Means committee would decide.

But setting a tax rate for annual incomes of more than $1 million would help, Carney said.

"Republicans thus far, by and large, have not supported the idea that we should eliminate the capacity for hedge fund managers to pay taxes on their income at a remarkably lower rate than average Americans," Carney said. "The president thinks as a matter of fairness that we should do away with that, and millionaires and billionaires should pay at a rate that's not lower than secretaries or other folks who are just trying to make ends meet."

Asked if the White House was looking to make some political hay by pushing the Buffett Rule after it was revealed that Mitt Romney, the front-runner in the GOP presidential race, and his wife paid a 14 percent tax rate on $27 million last year, Carney noted Obama had been pushing the Buffett Rule for some time.

He also encouraged anyone who supports Ryan's budget measure -- without specifically mentioning Romney, who backs Ryan's bill -- to offer examples of where savings could be found.

"I think, if you support the plan," Carney said, "it would be helpful for the general edification of the American people to explain how you would get from here to there."

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