All eyes on the House on budget deal

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2013 STARTS WITH A BANG: The Senate was finally getting a tax deal done while revelers at the Rev Room in Little Rock celebrated the New Year.
  • Brian Chilson
  • 2013 STARTS WITH A BANG: The Senate was finally getting a tax deal done while revelers at the Rev Room in Little Rock celebrated the New Year.

Early this morning the Senate voted 89-8 for a plan that raises taxes on a small slice of the wealthy, but puts off spending cut decisions for two months.

But this is the key:

The House Speaker, John A. Boehner, and the Republican House leadership said the House would “honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement.” But, they added, “decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members — and the American people — have been able to review the legislation.”

Even with that cautious assessment, Republican House aides said a vote Tuesday is possible. The House is expected to reconvene at noon.

Extremists (think U.S. Rep. Tiny Tim Griffin of Searcy/Cabot/Bryant) in the House have been hard-line against ANY tax increase for months. Will the Tea Party cave? Will Grover Norquist and the Kochs allow them to cave? It is a serious question. Griffin's Twitter talk continues to emphasize his desire to slash spending (on stuff he doesn't like, while preserving the stuff he does like.) The debt ceiling fight is due for a replay. Democratic Senators insist they won't cower to Republicans and a default in those subequent talks will be on the Republicans. We shall see.

Liberal Sen.Tom Harkin of Iowa, one of the eight "no" votes, thought the president gave up too much given the battles ahead. I'm unable to judge, but it is worth noting that liberal groups are among the dissatisfied, such as Americans for Tax Fairness:

“The American people have been very clear that it is time for the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share of taxes. This compromise will raise $620 billion from wealthy Americans. That’s a good start, but it does not go nearly far enough due to the intransigence of the Republican Party, which has done everything in its power to thwart the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans. We are disappointed that this final deal does not raise taxes on the richest 2 percent — those making more than $250,000 a year — and that the estate tax has not been sufficiently strengthened so that it will affect at least 3 out of 1,000 estates held by the super-rich. Clearly, much more work is needed in coming months to ensure that the wealthiest Americans and big corporations pay their fair share."

In the middle — Sen. Mark Pryor:

I’m pleased Senate Democrats and Republicans were able to prevent our country from going over the fiscal cliff. Tonight the Senate passed a package on a bipartisan basis to prevent tax increases on middle-class Americans, create a permanent AMT patch, fix the estate tax to give Arkansas small businesses and family farms the certainty they need, and provide critical tax credits for hard-working families. That being said, I know some may not agree with all the details of this plan. But that’s the art of compromise and consensus building, and I hope we see more of it as Congress works to improve our economy.

At the other extreme, the feudal restoration party is upset. I particularly liked a Twit from a working-class foot soldier for the Kochs' political machine in Northwest Arkansas:

deal raises estate tax. Well, better dole out your treasures to your kids & charities b4 death panel pulls your plug.

This reminds again how completely the vast majority of working Americans have been sold on the "death tax" myth. The facts: The "deal" exempts $5 million in estate assets ($10 million for married couples) from taxation, and then raises the top marginal tax rate by only 5 percentage points. I'm guessing the Kochhead lamenting this "deal" has a few million dollars short of $10 million in her marital estate.

In Arkansas, past figures show when the estate exclusion was $3.5 million, well short of 300 people died each year with estates in taxable territory. But go ahead, hon, dole out those treasures of yours to your kids.

SPEAKING OF THE KOCHS: Give a read to this Crooks and Liars report on the spreading tentacles of the Koch-financed "grassroots" political movement that has spread into every statehouse in America as well as the halls of Congress. Its paid operatives and political money have been used to power the new Republican majority in Arkansas. They have spent millions in directly political ways, even as they are shielded from full exposure by weak laws that have allowed them to claim they are merely engaged in "educational" endeavors. It is time for a new test, in the courts if necessary, of this subterfuge.

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