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This Week in Washington – November 29, 2010

The WikiLeaks document release will dominate the conversation inside the beltway today and this week.  Tomorrow, the President’s Debt Commission will meet in an attempt to report a package of legislative items to Congress.  The Commission needs 14 of 18 members to vote to report any measure and they are operating under a December 1st deadline to settle on a report.  Also on Tuesday, the President has scheduled a bipartisan meeting of Congressional leaders to deal with the issue of expiring tax cuts for all Americans.  The Senate will complete work on the food safety bill this week and the House has 30 suspension votes scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

The Senate has a cloture vote scheduled tonight on, S. 510, the food safety bill.  If cloture is invoked, the Senate will vote on four amendments.  Senators Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Max Baucus (D-MT) have competing amendments to modify ObamaCare.  Both Amendments seek to delete an ObamaCare tax provision forcing small businesses to file 1099 forms for routine expenditures.  Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has a substitute amendment on food safety and a rules change to ban earmarking.  All of these amendments require 67 votes, because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has continued to abuse the rules of the Senate by blocking all amendments to bills and the only way for Senators to offer amendments is to suspend the rules (requiring a 2/3rds vote of Senators).  The Senate will swear in Mark Kirk as the new Senator from Illinois today at 5:30 putting Republicans at 42 votes for the remainder of the year.

The House will vote on 9 suspension items including a one-month extension of the current Medicare physician payment rates, a bill that has already passed the Senate.  Twenty-one suspension votes are scheduled for Tuesday in the House.  According to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office, the House may act on H.R. 4783, as modified by the Senate, the Claims Resolution Act.  This is a bill that purports to settle class action suits for American Indians and black farmers.  The House is expected to send the Senate a Continuing Resolution this week to keep the Federal government running for a few more weeks until the Congress can settle on the Omnibus or a Continuing Resolution into next year.  The Dream Act, an immigration proposal, may also come up in the House, and maybe the Senate, this week, but it is not expected to pass the Senate.

The President’s meeting with Congressional Leaders on Tuesday is expected to bear little fruit.  The Democrats are trying to change the terms of the debate on the expiration of tax cuts by arguing that tax cuts for job creators making over $1 million a year should be raised. 

The Washington Post reports:

Over the past few days, a growing number of lawmakers have publicly embraced the idea of extending expiring tax cuts for families making as much as $1 million a year. They include newly elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who argued on “Fox News Sunday” that “we should draw the line in the sand for millionaires.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) argued on Fox News Sunday that Congress would pass a 2 to 3 year extension of all tax cuts. 

From The Hill:

On extending the Bush-era tax cuts, which is likely to be the most pressing order of business when the Senate reconvenes, Graham predicted a bipartisan lame-duck vote to extend all of the tax cuts for two or three years.

Although politicians are publicly proclaiming the will on both sides of the aisle for a bipartisan deal, it does not seem that either side is willing to give enough ground to cut a deal.  Dems want to split the tax cuts into those for the rich and middle class.  Republicans want tax cuts for all.  A compromise version of a temporary tax cut for all does not seem like a realistic deal in Lame Duck.  I predict that it is more likely than not that the tax cut issue gets kicked into 2011.

That being said, billionaires took to the air on Sunday to plead for President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to be allowed more dominion over billionaire’s earnings.  Warren Buffett, Ted Turner and Bill Gates sobbed on This Week with Christiane Amanpour, a show that has turned into a liberal infomercial (and a boring one at that), for billionaires to be taxed at higher rates.

The Hill reports that Buffett pleaded for higher taxes for job creators:

“I think that you should raise taxes on the very rich,” said Warren Buffett, who is CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and has a net worth of about $47 billion. “I lived in periods where capital gains taxes were 39.6 percent, when earned income taxes were 70 percent, and our economy did just fine.”

It is easy for the super rich to urge lawmakers to tax people at high rates when they have already banked billions.  These entrepreneurs who have made billions, the noblesse oblige, want the federal government to spend more and more of your money.  They want the federal government to tax at higher rates and spend, spend, spend.  If these billionaires really trust politicians in Washington to spend money more wisely, they should cut a check for a billion today to the federal treasury.  They should prove that they care enough to cut a check to the Federal Treasury and they could reduce the federal debt by 3 billion with three checks.

Turner, Buffett and Gates will probably not do so, because they want to force other super rich, and not so rich, individuals to pay higher taxes.  The goal of these guys is to force other wealthy people to take money away from creating jobs and give it to the federal government to waste.  Maybe these titans of business should stay out of politics and stop advocating for bigger government.

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