Thanks a Lot Senator Ensign—We Didn’t Need That!

HR4213, the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010 does a lot more than merely extend unemployment benefits for more than one million unemployed people whose benefits are expiring.  It also extends tax deductions and tax credits that many Americans count on as they file their annual tax returns, things like:

  1. the tax deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers;
  2. the additional standard tax deduction for state and local real property taxes;
  3. the tax deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes;
  4. the tax deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses;
  5. the tax credit for differential wage payments for employees who are active duty members of the Uniformed Services;
  6. the tax deduction for personal casualty losses attributable to federally-declared disasters.

A full summary of all the provisions of this bill can be found here.

While 55 Democrats and 2 Independents voted for cloture on this bill, all 40 Republicans and 1 Democrat (Sen. Ben Nelson [NE]) voted against it.  Senator Ensign may claim he’s against increasing taxes and all for providing additional tax deductions for Nevadans, but once again, his actions speak much louder than his words.  This is not the first time he’s voted against a bill that would extend some of these tax deductions (#3 in particular affects each and every Nevada taxpayer and if not extended will increase their federal tax burden).

In looking at the unemployment extension, a number of people have questioned why they just don’t take that extension out of the bigger bill and bring just the unemployment benefits extension by itself.  The best explanation I’ve found to answer that question is here:

“The rea­son the Dems don’t split off pieces of the bill — say, the un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits sec­tion — and try to pass them sep­a­rate­ly with a full de­bate is that it would give Re­pub­li­cans an op­por­tu­ni­ty to stall all Sen­ate ac­tion for a week or longer. The Re­pub­li­cans may not nec­es­sar­i­ly op­pose the un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits ex­ten­sion or the doc fix, but they will fil­i­buster and force an ex­tend­ed de­bate in order to eat up pre­cious Sen­ate time that the Democrats want to use for other things this ses­sion, like en­er­gy leg­is­la­tion, re­spond­ing to Cit­i­zens Unit­ed, and im­mi­gra­tion re­form. Sen. Tom Coburn’s [R, OK] move yes­ter­day to em­ploy the “clay pi­geon” pro­ce­dure and force votes on dozens of con­tentious amend­ments il­lus­trates the kind of tools Re­pub­li­cans could use on each piece of this bill if the Dems tried split­ting it up.”

At this point, the bill is on hold, gathering dust waiting on a few Republicans to change their minds.  We’ve now seen three cloture votes, and three failures to get a sufficient number of votes for cloture, a parliamentary procedure by which debate is ended and an immediate vote is taken on the matter under discussion.