Tax Cuts Preserved; Compromise Package Clears Congress

By Peter Ambrose

December 17, 2010 Updated Dec 17, 2010 at 7:15 AM EDT

WASHINGTON, DC (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Months of contentious debate and negotiations are finally over, and the Bush-era tax cuts will remain for now.

The U.S. House passed the $858 Billion compromise package shortly before midnight Thursday night and sent it to President Obama for his signature. The Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill earlier this week.

The bill represents a compromise worked out by President Obama and Republican lawmakers this month. It will extend the Bush tax cuts for most Americans for two years after they expire at the end of the month. Unemployment benefits will also be extended for 13 months, the payroll tax will be cut by 2% through 2011, the controversial estate tax will be restored at a lower level and other tax breaks will be continued.

Many Democrats in the House and Senate opposed the bill, complaining President Obama gave up too much. They and he wanted to extend the tax cuts to all but the wealthy. The cuts would have expired for families earning more than $250,000 a year and individuals earning more than $1 million. Republicans fought that proposal, arguing the cuts should stay in place for everyone. They won that fight in the compromise.

Republicans and Democrats also fought over the estate tax. Under the deal, the estate tax reportedly returns at a reduced rate of 35% on amounts above a $5 million exemption. House Democrats threatened to raise the rate to generate more revenue, but didn't change it. Republicans oppose the tax, arguing it would make it harder for small business owners to pass the businesses on to family members. Some Republicans also fought against extending the unemployment benefits because they would add to the deficit.

In the end, the tax compromise package passed the House by a 277-148 vote, supported allmost equally by Demorats and Repubilcans.

Most of Indiana's representatives voted for the bill. Republicans Marlin Stutzman, Dan Burton and Steve Buyer joined Democrats Andre Carson, Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill cast yes votes. Democrat Pete Visclosky voted against it as did Republican Mike Pence. Pence said this week he wouldn't vote for the bill because it amounts to a stimulus and won't create jobs.

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