Congressmember Lois Capps reluctantly voted in favor of the $858 billion tax cut proposal agreed upon two weeks ago by Senate Republicans and President Barack Obama during a midnight floor session of the House late Thursday. That vote occurred after an effort by disgruntled Democrats to amend the plan — which Capps did support — failed. Capps had objected to the tax plan — an extension of the tax breaks enacted during the George W. Bush administration — because she said it was too generous to the wealthy at a time when the country could least afford it. Capps, however, supported tax cuts in the bill that targeted the middle class. In addition, she supported tax breaks it included that targeted green energy producers.
Had the House rejected the tax plan, Senate Republicans vowed to kill an extension of unemployment payments for the chronically unemployed over the next 13 months. Had the House not voted in favor of the tax bill, unemployment benefits would run out for up to 400,000 state residents as of January 1, according to Capps’s press spokesperson, Ashley Schapitl. In addition, she said, taxes would go up at the same time for middle-class residents of Capps’s district, who Schapitl said comprise 95 percent of the households. Those two factors, Schaptil said, persuaded Capps to vote in favor of the bill despite her misgivings that the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent would cost the government $300 billion over the next 10 years.
Before the tax cut bill, Capps had supported an unsuccessful effort — led by liberal Democrats — to amend estate tax provisions of that package. That amendment would have reduced the allowed exemption to the estate tax from the first $10 million to $7 million. It would have also increased the rate at which inherited wealth was taxed. These measure, however failed. Schapitl said if Congress had not passed a tax bill now — in the waning hours of the 111th Congress — the new Republican majority would pass a far more objectionable measure in the next Congressional session, perhaps making the tax cuts permanent as opposed to two years in duration. And she said it was highly unlikely unemployment payment extensions would be included.
With the tax bill passed, Schapitl said Capps was hopeful the Senate would now pass a bill to end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy relating to gays in the military. Senate Republicans refused to consider any measures until the tax bill was approved. Schapitl said a procedural vote on “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Dream Act — an immigration reform proposal favored by liberals — had been scheduled to take place some time Saturday. She expressed confidence there were enough votes to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but not enough to pass the Dream Act. Capps has supported both.