WASHINGTON – Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, was the only Republican to vote against a bill Thursday to make permanent last year’s $1.35 trillion tax cut, which would have expire in 2011.
The rest of Maryland’s congressional delegation split down party lines on the vote to extend indefinitely a lower federal income tax rate for all Americans, which includes special cuts for married couples, families with children and small businesses.
The vote passed 229-198, with eight members not voting. Supporters included all voting Republicans, except Morella, nine Democrats and one independent.
Democrats attacked the extension, which they said would contribute to the deficit and deplete Social Security funds.
Morella — who faces a tough re-election bid in a district that was redrawn this year to be overwhelmingly Democratic — sided with the Democrats because the state of the economy has changed, her spokesman said.
“Since the tax-relief legislation passed in Congress last year, the economic outlook has changed significantly — our nation is at war, we suffered a national emergency,” Jonathan Dean said. “While the economy is showing some very positive signs of recovery, the projected federal surplus has been altered substantially.”
But Maryland’s three other Republican House members supported the bill, with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, calling tax relief a “fundamental tenet of good tax policy.” Bartlett has always supported making the cuts permanent, said spokeswoman Lisa Wright.
“Good policy last spring, good policy now,” she said. “The only reason this vote is necessary is because Senate Democrats opposed making tax cuts permanent last spring and they still oppose making tax cuts permanent now.”
But Democrats blame the tax cuts for worsening the nation’s deficit.
“The president’s own budget said the tax cut was the single biggest factor in erasing our surplus,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, during House debate.
“With deficits projected every year for the next 10 years and an unchecked raid on Social Security and Medicare, the GOP proposes a bill that would deplete an estimated $7 million from the Social Security and Medicare trust funds-just as the Baby Boomers become eligible for benefits,” Hoyer said.
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, agreed the tax cuts pose more of a problem for future generations than the current one, said his spokeswoman, Amaya Smith. Wynn also said the cuts depleted the surplus more than the expenses of the war on terrorism have.
But Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said a future Congress can reinstate the taxes if it proves to be a problem — although he hopes the cut is still in place 100 years from now.
“It lowers the tax rate for everybody, whether millionaire or middle America,” Gilchrest said. “A number of low-income people would not pay any other taxes at all.”