Republicans pass tax breaks, but don’t pay for them
April 29th, 2014
06:44 PM ET
9 years ago

Republicans pass tax breaks, but don’t pay for them

Washington (CNN) – Republicans want to cut the deficit. And Republicans want to cut taxes. Tuesday, those two sweeping goals collided as a GOP-controlled House committee voted to advance hundreds of billions in tax cuts at the cost of adding those billions to the deficit.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted almost entirely along party lines to make six tax breaks permanent at a cost of $310 billion over the next 10 years.

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The top Democrat on the committee pounced.

“To say that Republican action today is hypocritical is a serious understatement,” Rep. Sandy Levin of Michigan said. “This approach today of Republicans flies smack in the face of fiscal responsibility.”

But the committee’s Republican chairman, Dave Camp, also of Michigan, did not blink. He responded that the tax breaks have been passed year after year without any offsets.

“This bill has been extended, unpaid for, probably 30 times,” Camp said of a research tax credit. “I think it’s important we extend this … supporting permanency, not a temporary extension.”

Team Camp also points to another argument: They believe the jobs that come from tax breaks are worth adding some red ink to the deficit.

“These are things that people feel are extremely worth adding to the economy,” said Camp spokeswoman Sarah Swinehart.

What’s $310 billion get you?

These six so-called “tax extenders” that the Ways and Means Committee approved Tuesday were plucked from a larger group of 55 tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013 and have been waiting for congressional renewal.

Among those passed Tuesday were three biggies: the research and experimentation deduction, the credit that helps small businesses with major equipment costs, and the break for businesses earning rent and interest overseas.

Camp was correct. In recent years, Congress has extended the breaks year after year without offsetting their costs. But in the 90s, most of them were offset.

Why the flashpoint now?

Democrats are particularly pressing the issue now because they see a conflict between the Republican demands that spending, especially on Democratic priorities like unemployment benefits, be offset while the GOP allows their own priority – tax cuts – to add to the deficit.

“It’s a clear double standard, particularly when you hold up unemployment,” said Chuck Marr, director of tax policy at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But Democrats also have exceptions to pay-for pushes, notably, many Democrats believe that unemployment benefits are emergency spending and do not need to be offset.

When asked if that is a double standard from the left, Marr said no.

“Unemployment insurance is a temporary, countercyclical move,” he replied. “What Republicans are doing here is pushing for something permanent and unpaid for.”

GOP chooses tax cuts at expense of deficit

Republicans insist their decision to choose tax cuts over trimming the deficit is nothing new.

“(Chairman Camp) has the position that extensions of current policy and tax cuts don’t have to be paid for,” said Swinehart. “Pay-fors are for spending. New spending. That’s his position.”

Yet, in Camp’s recent sweeping tax reform proposal, he did pay for all the tax cuts he extended. He did that largely by repealing other tax cuts. But that proposal is not going anywhere.

Camp insists that’s not a contradiction. His office argues that paying for tax breaks is only possible in a comprehensive revision of the tax system, not when tax breaks are taken one by one as the House is preparing to do now.

The result: On Tuesday, Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee choose their anti-tax crusade over their image as deficit hawks.

Next, all Republicans in the House will face a similar choice.

Multiple GOP sources tell CNN they expect all six tax credit bills to get votes on the House floor and that leadership is still working out the exact timing.

Filed under: Congress • Republicans • Taxes
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. S. B. Stein

    It just shows that they have no real understanding of balancing a budget. This was driven by ideological drivel.

    April 29, 2014 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  2. Liz the First

    Proof positive that the republicans are NOT the party of fiscal responsibility. they are the spendthrift party who will stop at nothing to give the rich even more ways to get richer at the expense of everyone else. the only thing republicans are good at is deceiving gullible people into voting for them. government taxes and spends. that is the function of a government. republicans have no concept of how to govern. they deny the very basic function of government. how decent, fair-minded people who love their country can vote for these incompetent saboteurs is beyond me.

    April 29, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  3. notaboblehead

    Let's hear the republican explanation of how more tax cuts for the wealthiest and just adding it to the deficit is the responsible way to run the government. Is this the new plan? After this fiasco is complete it will only leave one alternative. Cuts to medicare, cuts to social security, cuts to medicaid, cuts to the plan for health care for everyone, cuts to education, cuts to veterans benefits. Another 2001 Bush plan all over again and we all know where that has led our economy. We experienced the worst recession since the great depression and the republican party fought tooth and nail to make the appearance that it was the failure of the current president. Republicans have stood shoulder to shoulder to promote FAILURE. This action to discredit the sitting president for your own parties political gain is truly un-American and pro foolish. DISGUSTING!

    April 29, 2014 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  4. Thomas

    Republicans pass tax breaks, but don’t pay for them ?

    What else is new , The Republicans start wars and don't pay for them .

    April 29, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  5. rs

    A shock! The cut-taxes-and-spend crowd is at it again.

    April 29, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  6. dianne

    All I can say is, Wow. Talk about priorities. Another step towards a 2-class society.

    April 30, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  7. J.V.Hodgson

    I wonder how the Tparty deficit hawks will justify voting for this addition to debt.

    April 30, 2014 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  8. Graeme from Ottawa

    Typical Borrow and spend conservatism, shameful.

    April 30, 2014 04:39 am at 4:39 am |
  9. Do as I say, not as I do

    Why is this a surprise? Of course they'll approve more welfare for the super rich and big business. The republican mantra is all about caring for those who have the big bucks. Anyone earning less than $100k is foolish to think republicans will ever do anything for their benefit.

    April 30, 2014 05:46 am at 5:46 am |
  10. whatever1784

    who is surprised by this?

    April 30, 2014 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  11. kurt

    This is very hypocritical.

    Tax credits are the exact same thing as spending programs. They have the exact same impact as collecting the money then having the government pay out the EXACT same amount. The best example is cash for clunkers.

    In cash for clunkers we collected money, then paid out money in a government spending program for those who bought what we considered an energy efficient vehicle. But we also had a program that gave a tax credit for those who bought an energy efficient vehicle.

    Those programs do the EXACT SAME THING. They gave people a cash amount (either through a government check or through a tax credit) if they bought an energy efficient car. It doesn't matter if it happens when you file taxes or if it happens through a government check... the financial impact is IDENTICAL.

    Yet the GOP consider one a spending program while the other is a tax cut.

    This is a hypocritical view of finance that allows the GOP to continue using the tax code to give entitlements while claiming they are being fiscally conservative. They are not.

    In fact, the democrats are MORE fiscally conservative. Why? Because taxing and spending creates less of a deficit then spending while lowering taxes. And that's what the GOP has done the last 20 years. Those targeted tax credits are just hidden entitlements targeted at the wealthy and not offsetting them is NOT fiscally conservatism. It's fiscally liberal behavior... but targeted toward the wealthy rather then those in need.

    April 30, 2014 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  12. Cole Pigott

    The 'Trickle Down' Economics espoused by Camp is just sacking the Treasury and then there isn't any requirement to invest that money here in the USA. The old slight of hand trick from the Republican hucksters.

    April 30, 2014 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  13. king

    can we say 2008 again. these repubs always want to spend money and dont pay for it. we've got 2 wars, tax cuts and a medicare part D on the credit card, and now repubs want to blow up the budget a little bit more, so they can blame Obama. aint that special.

    April 30, 2014 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  14. Tampa Tim

    Tax cuts, with no revenue to off set them, are added directly to the national debt. That is debt increasing economics republicans are famous for, but is not fiscally sound. However, history tells us that Republicans increase the debt and then blame Obama.

    April 30, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  15. shehar39

    just like we can't pay for the obama's vacations?

    April 30, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Here we go again with that old smoke screen again. Saying that tax cuts create jobs is just a coverup to cut the taxes on the major donors to conservatives. Even the Reagan advisor, David Stockman, who had came up with the phrase "trickle down", has said exactly that. He's called the Republican tax policies a "trojan horse" for the sole purpose of reducing and eliminating taxes for the wealthy. It's working, too. Folks like Mitt Romney can go years without actually paying much of anything in taxes.

    One study out of England says that our democracy has been replaced by a plutocracy. I think they're right. It's all about the plutocrats, folks, and the Republicans are the party that is their beholden servants.

    April 30, 2014 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  17. devil's advocate

    With only 95% of the wealth going to the top 1%, we need more tax cuts, they aren't getting enough to satisfy them. Remember how hard the gop fought to raise taxes in only the middle, and lower class? They fought tooth and nail against a tax raise for the very group who took 95% of all wealth, how can any sane person support this, there is literally no evidence that supports their claims of lower taxes on the rich creates jobs, again, literally the only mention of jobs, how do they stay in power, blows my mind to think how uninformed and stupid you have to be to support these clowns, yet, here they are! Ugh!!!

    April 30, 2014 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  18. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    IOKIYAR to add to the to deficit and it not be offset. But God forbid extending unemployment benefits to 2 million Americans. The hypocrisy is jaw dropping.

    April 30, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  19. media.fail2012

    The headline of this article is indicative of the of the writer's slant on politics, in this case liberal/progressive. Conservatives/libertarians would have correctly identified that tax breaks/cuts are not "spending". It is not taking as much money from someone you would have.

    Also, this particular argument is a democrat talking point. History has shown that all of the tax cuts going back to Kennedy either had no effect on tax revenue or generated such a positive effect that the slight drop was completely negated by the future growth of the economy.

    April 30, 2014 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  20. Gurgyl

    -just think about it, how can you cut Taxes and cut deficit simultaneously? It is a biggest drama GOP plays as usual. Nonsense. This is just sheer to grab votes? In-educated nation needs education to comprehend. Drive this republican garbage out. Period.

    April 30, 2014 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  21. Steve

    The Republicans have yet again illustrated why they are regarded as hypocrites. They have no honor.

    April 30, 2014 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  22. devil's advocate

    Regarding Mr.Sterling,his best argument is that the current gop politicians say far worse towards the sitting president, and are rewarded for it with big contributions. Hypocracy, you bet ya, welcome to the gop.

    April 30, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  23. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Republicans insist their decision to choose tax cuts over trimming the deficit is nothing new.
    You heard it here first folks.
    Surprised aren't you?
    God knows you shouldn't be.
    Here's the thing, Rethugliklans only want to appear to trim the deficit if doing so directly interferes with ANYTHING the Dems or this administration in particular want to do for the middle-class, infrastructure, or the country as a whole.
    Republicans are a bunch of bald-faced liars. and sinverguenzas to boot.
    Of this I am completely convinced.

    April 30, 2014 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  24. Jerry

    What a stupid story-how could the republicans pass anything when the senate and president are democrates.

    April 30, 2014 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  25. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    So, how is this different from any other budget or Tax break passed since 2001? The Republicans are great believers in deficit financing, otherwise the deficits wouldn't keep growing during their administrations.

    April 30, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
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