Despite the hue and cry by House Democrats about how much the wealthy benefit from the tax plan President Obama brokered with the GOP, the bill overcame Democratic opposition in the House late last night. It will be signed by the president as early as today.
Congress approved the most significant tax bill in nearly a decade late Thursday, overcoming liberal resistance to continue for two more years tax breaks enacted under president George W. Bush and to provide a fresh boost of federal support to the tepid economic recovery.
The package, brokered by President Obama and Republican leaders in the wake of the November elections, angered many Democrats, who have long argued that the Bush tax cuts were skewed to benefit the wealthy. But their last-minute campaign to scale back the bill's benefits for taxpayers at the highest income levels failed, and the House passed the measure 277 to 148, with 112 Democrats and 36 Republicans voting "no."
"This bill, the president of the United States believes and I believe, will have a positive effect on the economy," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). "I will vote for this bill because I don't want to see middle-income working people in America get a tax increase, because I think that will be a depressant on an economy that needs to be lifted up."
The $858 billion package now goes to the White House. With his signature, expected as soon as Friday, Obama will prevent taxes from rising on New Year's Day for virtually every American household. The measure also will guarantee unemployed workers in hard-hit states up to 99 weeks of jobless benefits through the end of next year. And it will create major new incentives for business and consumer spending in 2011, including a two-percentage-point reduction in the Social Security payroll tax that would let workers keep as much as $2,136.
As reported previously on The Root, roughly 2.2 million black families stand to benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, helping roughly 4.7 million black children. The extension of unemployment benefits for 13 months is also projected to benefit 1.1 million African Americans — who have been hardest hit by unemployment in this economy.
Sheryl Huggins Salomon is senior editor-at-large of The Root and a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based editorial consultant. Follow her on Twitter.