House votes to extend most Bush tax cuts, passes child nutrition act

The House of Representatives voted today to extend the Bush tax cuts affecting individuals earning less than $200,000 annually and families earning less than $250,000. The vote was 234 to 188, mostly along party lines. Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell all voted for the bill, while Republicans Tom Latham and Steve King voted against it. If you click on the roll call, you might notice the vote was on a “Motion to Concur in the Senate Amendment with an Amendment” to the Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2010, Part III. Adding the tax cut language to this vehicle, instead of introducing a new bill, was done to deny Republicans the chance to make a motion to recommit and attach the rest of the Bush tax cuts. David Waldman walks you through the House procedural weeds.

Only three House Republicans voted for this bill, which would permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of filers. Every recent poll shows a minority want to extend the tax cuts for the top income levels. It’s disgusting that Republicans can’t accept even this bill, which gives more money back to wealthier people anyway.

The White House response to today’s vote was even more disgraceful:

“The President continues to believe that extending middle class tax cuts is the most important thing we can do for our economy right now and he applauds the House for passing a permanent extension.  But, because Republicans have made it clear that they won’t pass a middle class extension without also extending tax cuts for the wealthy, the President has asked Director Lew and Secretary Geithner to work with Congress to find a way forward.  Those discussions started just yesterday and are continuing this afternoon.  The talks are ongoing and productive, but any reports that we are near a deal in the tax cuts negotiations are inaccurate and premature.”

Who still believes that Barack Obama wants to win this battle? He isn’t even trying. I wonder if he’s been planning to cave on this issue all along.

Meanwhile, the House passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 today by a vote of 264 to 157. All Iowa Democrats voted yes, as did Latham (one of just 17 Republicans to cross the aisle on this issue). King voted no, along with most of the Republican caucus. The Senate passed this bill by unanimous consent in August. It would improve the school lunch program and fund other child nutrition programs, but unfortunately food stamp funding was used to cover part of the cost. Senator Tom Harkin’s office summarized the bill’s provisions, and I’ve posted that statement after the jump. Referring to the food stamp funding, Harkin states, “President Obama, however, has committed to work with Congress to replace this offset before these SNAP [food stamp] cuts take place in November 2013.” I wouldn’t count on the president keeping that promise in light of today’s White House statement on tax cuts.

UPDATE: Senator Tom Harkin said on December 2 that if Obama caves on the Bush tax cuts, “He would then just be hoping and praying that Sarah Palin gets the nomination.”

Harkin/Woolsey: House Action on School Nutrition Bill Important Step Toward Historic School Nutrition Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-06) lauded today’s passage of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act by the House of Representatives by a vote of 264-157.  In particular, they singled out praise for a provision that would require the Secretary of Agriculture to set nutrition standards for all foods sold on the grounds of schools participating in the National School Lunch Program, consistent with their jointly introduced legislation, the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act.   Harkin and Woolsey have introduced this legislation every Congress since 2006.  Harkin has sought similar protections since the mid 1990s.  

“For too long, we have allowed the unchecked sale of junk food in our schools to undermine not just the health of our kids, but also the desires of parents, and our taxpayer investment in school meals,” said Harkin.  “House passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act moves us one step closer to requiring common-sense nutrition standards for the foods and beverages sold in schools.  With this provision, the bill will help make the healthy choice, the easy choice.  We also know that it’s the choice that parents around the country prefer.  Survey after survey shows that parents support school nutrition standards at school that reinforce the healthy choices that parents try to make for their kids at home.”

“It’s been 30 years since the regulations limiting junk food sales in schools were updated, despite significant advances in nutrition science and a troubling growth in childhood obesity,” said Woolsey.  “Updating the nutrition standards for foods sold in vending machines, a la carte lines, and school snack bars is a common sense way to confront childhood obesity head on.”

Under the terms of the provision, section 208, the Secretary of Agriculture is required to propose science-based school nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, including vending machines, snack bars, and school stores, not later than one year after enactment of the bill.  Following a notice and comment period, the standards must go into effect not earlier than one year after the regulations are finalized.  Under the terms of the legislation, the Secretary of Agriculture is also required to review and, if necessary, update the school nutrition standards after the publication of a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

This fiscally responsible and bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act reauthorizes the nation’s major Federal child nutrition programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program.  The bill provides $4.5 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years – nearly ten times the amount of money provided for the previous child nutrition reauthorization, and the largest new investment in child nutrition programs since their inception.

The bill is partially paid for by eliminating $2.2 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) temporary benefit increase under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  President Obama, however, has committed to work with Congress to replace this offset before these SNAP cuts take place in November 2013.

  • That WH press release was unbelievable.

    It is as tone deaf as anything I’ve seen out of the White House, and that’s saying something.

    The list of reasons to wish that someone would challenge this President to be less contemptuous of his base keeps growing. That the WH is negotiating to extend $700 billion in tax cuts on the same day we are being lectured by the Catfood Commission on sharing sacrifices is really too much to wrap your mind around.

    If he has any constituency left in the base who isn’t angry by 2012, I’ll be surprised.  Women got Ledbetter, but then they got shoved in front of the Stupak bus without getting much in return. LGBT folks don’t look like they’re getting much on DADT or anything else.  The unions don’t have any kept promises, plus they have their health plans taxed now.  Hispanics don’t have immigration reform or the Dream Act.  Federal workers have a poke in the eye as of this week.  Greens got more drilling and fumbling the BP spill, plus a lot of other unfortunate activities by Ken Salazar.  Seniors will have cuts to Social Security and more out of pocket for Medicare, brought to you be a Democratic President.

    I doubt a primary challenge would get very far, but wonder whether it would be worth organizing a significant number of “uncommitted” in the caucuses.  There should be a way to send the message that you dance with the ones who brought you once in a while or they won’t date you again.

    • it's insulting

      Suppose Obama agrees to a two-year or three-year extension of all tax cuts, then gets re-elected (that’s a big if the way things are going). We are supposed to believe he would let them expire later?

      He won’t stand up for any principle at all.

      • No offense

        but I think it’s my fellow lefty liberals who are absolutely tone deaf here.  Obama has made his priorities and personal preferences pretty darn clear.  But he also made it very clear – already in his campaign – that he’s a realist. When you don’t have the D votes in Congress even when you have the majority, you just don’t have them.  The liberal D caucus never had a majority, and they certainly won’t have it come 2011.  If BO ignored the 2010 November reality, he really would be tone deaf. And for the record, libs don’t have a majority in this country no matter which way you look at it. (Believe it or not, according to all those online political analysis tools, I’m left of Nader and Kucinich.  But I know I’m nowhere near mainstream in this country, and I have to accept that reality.)  

        Obama is clearly about getting things done. Something I think R’s see much more clearly than my fellow libs.  Had we had the kind of principled liberal people seem want for the past 2 years, we would certainly not have any sort of health law and nothing else from the liberal wish list.  And when it comes to souring people on the D party, the disgusting legislative sausage making of the past two years it’s pretty high up there. I find it rich that these same idiots turn around and blame the WH 100% for the losses.  Talk about tone deaf.

        I know my rant seems typical for a very early Obama advocate and volunteer.  I’m the first to admit that Obama has made mistakes, no question about it.  But if you want perfection, you better run for office yourself. I think my fellow libs really need to study some history and try to grasp how policy and change is actually made in this country.  It’s not made in the ideologically pure think tanks or in any other la la land.

        • he doesn't have to sign a bill

          extending all the Bush tax cuts. He can veto that and let Congress send him another one. Public opinion is with him on this. Why won’t he use the powers of his office?

          • Tax cuts

            I want to make it clear I don’t think the Bush tax cuts are necessary to run a good American business nor are they necessary from a fiscal standpoint.

            I think though no matter what some newspaper, poll, think tank or data group says, if people opposed the tax cuts then they would have voted for Democratic members of the House.  If people were for the health care bill and the public option, we should have seen a Democratic wave.

            Now, you’re going to say once the tax cuts and the health care bill are explained people support the Democratic position and that may be true, but people voted otherwise in the voting booth.

            We can agree on the premise that people don’t know what they’re voting for when they do so, I think that’s true, but to play this veto game is not going to keep the government going.  

          • Yes, he could

            not sign the bill and with that cause gridlock, political wrangling, and not get anything done.  So that’s really the message D’s and BO want to send to the public?  No better way to say that we really didn’t get the message Nov. 2.  

            Polling on this particular issue may be one thing, but political reality in Congress is another. It’s pretty clear the D version will not pass the Senate, so the idea of not signing the bill is largely a moot point.  If this is such a political winner and a slam dunk, why didn’t congressional D’s bring it up before the election?  Nothing like bringing it up after you get your ass kicked, really big time.  We lost, and people need to acknowledge that.  And what real camaraderie and support these House D’s showed to the president when they rammed this through knowing exactly what was discussed between the WH and R’s only one day before.

            More than focusing on this particular issue, my comments are about the general attitude of the liberal wing of our party (which includes me).  The majority of our wing really seems to be into the no loaf thing, as long as they can keep their ideologically pure or special-interest approved hungry cries.  It infuriates me. They should listen to Ted Kennedy’s dad: “There is no crying in this house.”

            • somebody say "gridlock?"

              Did you just worry that Obama might cause gridlock?  and political wrangling?!  Obama?  He who surrenders first and negotiates later?  

              • I'm not sure

                what your point is about the gridlock/wrangling/Obama/surrender connection.  Maybe you can clarify it for me.

                Anyways, I would not describe Obama’s negotiation stance on this issue as a surrender.  Maybe he actually read the Nov. 2 election results?  Maybe the furious libs have not gotten that far yet?  Maybe what you consider surrender is called for after the historic ass kicking?  Seems to me like Obama is being the adult, moving on, dealing with reality, and actually negotiating about meaningful and important issues like extending unemployment benefits and START (which, reports seem to indicate, he may be having success with).  The good thing is, in their rather substantial minority, House D’s will have plenty of time to take their principled stands on a plethora of topics.  It’s so much easier and more fun than actual governing.

                • Another thought on this general topic

                  I find the similarities between the “principled” right and left rather striking.  Both seem to thrive on keeping any and all policy proposals (that will never ever materialize) as pure as possible.  Guaranteed principled loss, and consequently maintaining status quo, seems to be their ideal.  Despite my hefty lefty leanings, I’m with the vast majority in the middle who want things done.  And getting things done means that I very, very seldom get what I really want.

                  We lefties love to ridicule the right wingers’ self-defeating love of ideological purity.  But the last two years have proven that we are often just as stupid as they are.  I guess it all comes down to the apparent tastiness of the no loaf.

                  Ok, I think I got it out now.  Sorry for the rants.  I guess I should post more often so it doesn’t build up this way. 😉

                  • wrong

                    I think the Bush tax cuts package for people earning less than $200K/250K is far from perfect. Democrats should have come up with a better package and taken extending the Bush tax cuts off the table. That didn’t happen.

                    There’s not a single poll suggesting people in the middle want to extend all the tax cuts. If you think they will admire Obama for basically saying, “I went against my principles, but at least I worked with Republicans to get something done,” I think you are wrong. People would respect him more for at least trying to get the deal he says he believes in.

                • deuling points

                  Agreed, my point was confused, because it was really two responses to you wrapped into one.

                  First:  You suggested Obama would cause gridlock if he doesn’t give in to Republican tax plans.  It is obvious to me that Republicans want gridlock and are doing all they can to get it.  Obama is not to blame for the gridlock.

                  Second:  The reason I don’t expect to ever see him cause gridlock is that he’s so conflict-averse that he surrenders first and negotiates later (federal budget freeze proposed last winter, off-shore oil drilling, federal pay freeze).  These concessions did not get the budget passed, the climate bill passed or the approval of Republicans in other areas.  He can’t even get judges confirmed.  

                  • Thank you for the clarification

                    On the first issue, I certainly agree that R’s are all about gridlock with Obama.  In this particular instance and with their November victory, this equation changes substantially.  If Obama compromises, R’s cannot escape the obstructionist charge.  The dance got a whole lot more difficult for the R’s with their November victory.

                    On the second issue, I agree for the most part.  Obama is definitely conflict-averse, which really should not be a surprise to anyone who was paying attention to the 2008 campaigns and before.  Yes, on some of the issues he should/could have been more aggressive and used different tactics.  But I’m not sure changing his negotiating tactics on some of the examples you provide would have made any difference.  For example, the climate bill was DOA no matter what. Or take the federal pay freeze.  His take on it is a political no-brainer.  In these budget times nothing more tone deaf than not go for it.  And I’m talking as a former public sector employee here.

                    My biggest beef with Obama has been his slow response to obvious political challenges and his weakness in making his case in a concise, easy-to-understand manner.  The health care debate was a prime example of that.  Of course, the D legislative debacle did nothing to help with that issue.

            • Clinton vetoed welfare reform twice

              and Congress sent him a third version, which I still didn’t like, but was better than the two bills he vetoed. That is how bargaining works. Just because someone says at the beginning of negotiations, “I’ll never agree to X,” you don’t have to accept that as truth.

              The veto power is real, and Obama could get a better deal in the end if he used his veto.

              • I think we need to agree

                to disagree on the negotiation thing.  I don’t think the use of a veto is an automatic sign of good negotiation.  There are different circumstances and a lot of ways to negotiate, with different pros and cons.

                • it's about his priorities

                  Obama threatened to veto a bill if it cut funding for the Race to the Top education reforms. I don’t know enough about those to know whether they are helpful, but can you honestly say that is more important than whether the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent are extended? Obama will be breaking a major campaign promise if he doesn’t let those tax cuts expire.

                  It looks like he is using Republican obstruction as an excuse not to keep his promise on tax cuts, as opposed to putting the Republicans in the hot spot.

                  • Race to Privatize

                    It’s indeed telling that Obama would veto any bill that stalls the drive to privatize schools, like Repubs did with prisons.  His threat was used against Democrats in the case you cite, right?  

                  • Why didn't the spineless congressional D's

                    get this done before the election?  Before the election, it was pretty clear Obama was the one holding the line on this.  Plus, comparing anything that happened before Nov. 2 to something after Nov. 2 is pretty pointless.  The political landsscape has completely shifted.  And please don’t forget, the House tax deal will never get through the Senate.  So the veto threat would be pretty empty. Only some sort of a compromise could ever reach his desk.  Everyone involved knows that.

  • Bluffing

    The repugs were bluffing.  They have been filabustering on about everything since 2007.  We should have called their bluff and let the bush surplus giveaway expire.  Then comeback in 2011 with the Obama tax cuts.

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