HOUSE $70 billion tax cuts

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WASHINGTON – Here’s how Maine’s members of Congress were recorded on major roll call votes in the week ending May 12.

HOUSE $70 billion tax cuts

Members on May 10 approved, 244 for and 185 against, the conference report on a bill providing net tax cuts of nearly $70 billion over five years. The sum will be added to national debt. The bill (HR 4297) would extend through 2010 the 15 percent rate for capital gains and dividends, at a cost to the Treasury of nearly $21 billion, and protect some 15 million middle-income taxpayers against the Alternative Minimum Tax in 2006, at a one-year cost of nearly $34 billion. Another major item is $4.8 billion in tax cuts on the overseas profits of a few large financial services corporations. The bill includes revenue-raisers, in areas such as converting traditional Individual Retirement Accounts to Roth IRAs, to bring the net cost under $70 billion.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Rep. Tom Allen, D-1, voted no. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-2, voted no.

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Democrats’ tax plan

Voting 190 for and 234 against, the House on May 10 defeated a Democratic alternative to HR 4297 (above). The substitute sought to strip the bill of tax cuts on capital gains and dividends but retain, and increase, Alternative Minimum Tax relief for middle-income taxpayers.

A yes vote backed the Democratic plan.

Allen and Michaud voted yes.

Military abortions abroad

Voting 191 for and 237 against, the House on May 10 refused to overturn a ten-year-old policy that keeps U.S. servicewomen from receiving privately financed abortions at U.S. military hospitals abroad. The amendment was proposed to the fiscal 2007 defense authorization bill (HR 5122).

Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said: “Since over 200,000 women serve overseas in military bases and are denied the right under Roe v. Wade to terminate a pregnancy, we need this legislation.”

Candice Miller, R-Mich., said “the mission of the military health system…. is to save lives, not destroy innocent human lives.”

A yes vote was to overturn the ban.

Allen voted yes, Michaud voted no.

SENATE

$70 billion tax cuts

Voting 54 for and 44 against, senators on May 11 sent President Bush a bill (HR 4297, above) yielding nearly $70 billion in net tax cuts over five years. The bill’s largest item is a one-year patch to keep the Alternative Minimum Tax from adding $34 billion to the 2006 tax bills of some 15 million middle-income taxpayers. But the bill averts a long-term AMT fix, which would swell national debt by nearly $1 trillion over ten years. The AMT was enacted in 1970 to keep wealthy filers from paying no taxes. But because it is not indexed for inflation, the tax has crept into middle-income brackets. Even with relief in this bill, the AMT this year will affect three million unintended targets in the middle class.

Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the lower capital gains and dividend rates merit renewal now even though they do not expire for another 32 months. “It’s important to have a long-term tax policy if you’re going to encourage investment, and that’s why we’re extending this at this particular time,” he said.

Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., called it wrong “to move forward with debt financing of another tax cut for the wealthiest in the country while we are ignoring the need to reduce the deficit…and we’re not following through on earlier efforts to create an energy policy for the country.”

A yes vote backed the conference report.

Sen. Susan Collins, R, voted yes. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R, voted no.

Medical malpractice

Voting 48 for and 42 against, the Senate on May 8 failed to reach 60 votes for advancing a GOP bill (S 22) to restrict medical malpractice lawsuits by capping jury awards for non-economic damages, narrowing the period for filing suits and limiting lawyers’ contingency fees at 15 percent. The bill would federalize state tort laws. It would cap pain-and-suffering awards and punitive damages ­- now unlimited – at $250,000, or $750,000 in some instances.

Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said: “The right way to bring down medical malpractice insurance premiums is to reform the insurance industry,” which “enjoys almost complete immunity from federal antitrust laws….”

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

Snowe and Collins voted yes.

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