Pork-Laden Tax Cut Deal Clears Senate Hurdle

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The Senate has overwhelmingly passed legislation that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts, sending the much-debated deal to the House for a final vote.

Senators approved the $858 billion measure 81-19, Wednesday. President Barack Obama urged the House to follow, and quickly pass the bill without changes.

"I know there are different aspects of this plan to which members of Congress on both sides of the aisle object. That's the nature of compromise," Obama said.

"But we worked to negotiate an agreement that's a win for middle-class families and a win for our economy, and we can't afford to let it fall victim to either delay or defeat," he said.

President Obama reached a deal with Republicans last week, eventually breaking his campaign promise of ending tax cuts for the wealthy.

"I am opposed to those provisions that I think give overly generous tax reductions to the wealthiest among us," Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said.

"Most conservatives are upset about the unfunded extension of unemployment benefits," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said. 

Jenny Beth, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, explained why her group is opposed to the tax legislation, on CBN News Channel Morning News, Dec. 15. Click here for her comments.

There's something for everyone to dislike. But the bill also includes provisions that members crave. Despite the mid-term election results and the public's call for spending restraint, Congress is still in the business of handing out special breaks.

"I expect that they will ultimately get a way to get it through by putting enough sweeteners in," Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said.

Along with extending the Bush-era tax cuts, the bill allows Hollywood to deduct as much as $20 million of movie production costs for filming in low income communities.

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will reap an increase on the tax on imported rum. Also, motorsports entertainment complexes, such as NASCAR, also get a tax break.

"The bottom line is this Senate will overwhelmingly pass this package," Rep. Kay Hutchingson, R-Texas, said. 

Meanwhile, a 1,900-page, $1.2 trillion spending bill is also expected to pass this week. The spending bill is a catch-all appropriation designed to keep the federal government operational.

Like the tax bill, it also has Americans who are opposed to pork-barrel spending holding their noses.

Altogether the bill includes more than 6,000 pet projects worth $8 billion, including:

  •  $80 million to states and Indian tribes to preserve Pacific salmon.
  •  $2.5 million for bike paths in Illinois.
  •  $4 million for the Kentucky National Guard to eradicate marijuana.
  •  $500,000 for transportation improvements at the Bronx Zoo.
  •  $1 billion to begin funding President Obama's health care law.

Democrats must pass the bill by midnight Saturday, making it possibly the last hoorah for congressional fat cats.

Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, has promised to ban earmarks and cut as much as $100 billion from agency budgets. He called the spending bill a "smack in the face to taxpayers."

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.