U.S. House paves way to increase property tax breaks after delay spurred by N.J. Democrat

The U.S. House on Tuesday cleared the way to begin drafting a $3.5 trillion spending bill that is expected to ease the Republican tax law’s $10,000 cap on deducting state and local taxes — something that’s gotten lot of attention in high-property tax New Jersey.

The 220-212 vote also paved the way for approval next month of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that already passed the Senate and includes at least $12.3 billion for New Jersey, plus money that could be tapped to help fund the $11.6 billion Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River and to extend Amtrak passenger service through New Jersey into the Lehigh Valley and Scranton, Pennsylvania.

But passage was delayed until New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agreed that there eventually would be a vote on the infrastructure bill next month separate from the larger spending bill.

The budget resolution gave the green light for lawmakers to draft a spending bill that included such Democratic priorities as allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, funding child care and community college, cutting taxes for lower- and middle-class families through an expanded Child Tax Credit, taking steps to combat climate change, and protecting millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation.

The bill also would allow Congress to increase the deduction for state and local taxes. The current cap disproportionately affects New Jersey and other high-tax states, most of which send billions of dollars more to Washington than they receive in services.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a progressive research group, said 80% of the 1.9 million New Jerseyans who would benefit from removing the cap had an average income of $216,000 or less, even though 72% of the benefits would go to the richest 5%.

The House’s August recess had been temporarily short-circuited and lawmakers called back to Washington this week after Gottheimer and eight other Democrats threatened to upend a two-track solution.

The plan called for progressives to back the infrastructure legislation that included few of their priorities, with moderates in turn voting for the larger spending bill, which would be funded in part by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans, the biggest beneficiaries of the GOP tax law.

The idea of passing two bills, one with Republican support and one with only Democratic backing under a procedure that blocked a Senate Republican filibuster, had been embraced by President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress, along with progressive lawmakers and their allies.

“Bridges, trains and roads mean little without meaningful human infrastructure,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, associate director of New Jersey Citizen Action. “We need to make investments in both, as urgently and comprehensively as we can.”

But Gottheimer and his allies insisted that the two pieces of legislation move separately. That angered progressives, who feared that the moderates would object to the larger spending bill and its tax increases once they got the bipartisan legislation through. For that reason alone, progressives said they would not vote for the infrastructure bill by itself, thus dooming that measure.

Gottheimer said after the vote that he had achieved his goal, since the deal called for voting on the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27 with or without the larger spending measure.

“With roads and bridges crumbling across our nation, this agreement does what we set out to do: secure a standalone vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, send it to the president’s desk, and then separately consider the reconciliation package,” Gottheimer said.

Still, with House and Senate leaders planning to finish drafting the larger spending bill around Sept. 15, both pieces of legislation still could be voted on at the same time.

And Gottheimer’s tactics didn’t sit well with some other House Democrats, including his North Jersey neighbor, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.

“The delaying and grandstanding we saw this week was not helpful or productive,” said Pascrell, D-9th Dist. “Ensuring we can advance the full measure of support for American families must take precedence. Congress can walk and chew gum at the same time and pass a package deal. An agenda to build back better for all Americans depends on it.”

Some moderate Democrats also called Gottheimer out. Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., told the Washington Post that the infrastructure legislation couldn’t pass without the larger spending bill, so why demand a vote you couldn’t win.

“Are you just going to dig your heels in and say, ‘I’m not doing anything’?” Wild told the Post, referring to Gottheimer and his allies. “That’s just stupid.”

Both bills were strongly supported by the American people, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. The infrastructure bill was favored by 65% to 28%, and the larger spending bill 62% to 32%.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-08-25 03:35:51 -0700