By Bert Eljera
By a vote of 51 to 48, nearly along party lines, the Senate extended on Wednesday Bush-era tax cuts, set to expire at the end of the year, to 2013.
Under the plan, income tax rates for individuals making up to $200,000 and families earning up to $250,000 would remain the same next year Rates on upper income Americans would expire on Dec. 31.
Income beyond the $250,000 threshold would be taxed at either 36 percent or 39.6 percent. That would be up from the current 33 percent and 36 percent for the top two income groups.
“It will be a big help for middle-class families,” said Rozita Lee, a leader in the Filipino-American community in Las Vegas. “More money give them more options, even giving more to charities.”
She thinks it’s a political move that will help President Obama with middle-class families, but it’s also something that, in the end, will benefit the country’s economically.
Other leaders of the fast-growing Asian-American community, now considered a key demographic in Nevada, a swing state, echo the sentiments.
“Every time the lives of middle-class people improve, the better are our chances for the future,” said Krystal Belmonte a leader at Raising Our Asian Rights (ROAR), a student organization at the University of Las Vegas.
Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the senate’s majority leader, said the tax cuts underscore the Democratic Party’s focus on the middle-class in Nevada and elsewhere.
“The Senate passed a plan that will cut taxes for 98 percent of Americans and protect middle-class families in Nevada and across the country from the fiscal cliff,” Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said from his Washington, D.C. office.
If signed into law, the Democratic bill is estimated to raise about $50 billion a year, but is not expected to make a dent at a time when federal budget deficits have been topping $1 trillion annually.
A Republican proposal to extend cut cuts to all income groups was rejected 54-45. Republican Scott Brown, who is in a tight re-election fight in Massachusetts, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, voted with the Democrats.
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who regularly votes with Democrats, sided with the Republicans.
President Barack Obama said the one-year extension would provide “certainty and security to families who are already feeling pinched” and reassure businesses by taking “a whole bunch of uncertainty out of the economy” at a time of global economic worries.
He challenged House Republicans, who will take up the legislation next week, to “do the right thing.”
Republicans are proposing to extend the tax cuts to all income groups for one year, arguing that the economy could not absorb a tax increase.
Speaker John Boehner said his Republican-led chamber is “more than willing” to make Democrats vote on the plan to extend tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans.
He said he is bringing up the GOP‘s proposal to extend the tax cuts for everyone.
The outcome is almost certainly stalemated until the November elections, so leaders of both houses of Congress are turning the House and Senate into campaign stages on one of the defining issues of the presidential and congressional races.
“It’s about time Washington stood up for the middle-class,” she said. “Including 1 million in Nevada alone, (the tax cut to middle-class families) help put food on the table, gas in the car and pay the mortgage.”
But Republicans argue the bill would mean almost a million small business owners in those upper tax brackets would see a tax increase.
“We know this is not about the economy. We know this is about the election,” Minority Mitch McConnell said. “Thank goodness it’s not going anywhere because it would be bad for the economy.”
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