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USA: Senate Approves Bill Worth $140 Billion in Corporate Tax Breaks

by Edmund AndrewsNew York Times
October 11th, 2004

The 633-page bill, which has already been passed by the House, passed the Senate today on a vote of 69 to 17. It is loaded with hundreds of provisions that provide benefits to a wide range of interests, including the General Electric Company, oil drillers, shipbuilders, cruise ship operators, importers of ceiling fans, corn farmers, tobacco farmers and even foreign gamblers.

Despite widespread criticism of the bill as a Christmas tree of special-interest provisions, the House passed it by a vote of 280 to 141 on Friday, and the Senate voted, 66 to 14, on Sunday to cut off a potential filibuster.

But Senate leaders were blocked from voting until today by Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, who was furious that the final bill did not include $2 billion in tax credits for companies that keep paying employees who are called to active duty from military reserves and the National Guard.

Ms. Landrieu finally won agreement for a vote - whose effect would be purely symbolic - on a measure that would declare the Senate's support for giving those employers some tax credits.

Ms. Landrieu refused today to concede ultimate defeat on the Guard and reserves measure. ``But as you know, the Senate leadership, unfortunately in my mind, can't dictate to the House leadership,'' she said at an afternoon news briefing.

A moment later, she said, ``I think it's going to be very, very, very difficult for the House of Representatives, for the Republican leadership, over the next few weeks to try to explain their position and to the American public why the tax bills keep flying out of this Congress, one after another after another, and leaving out the Guard and reserve every time.''

The largest provisions of the corporate tax bill repeal a $5 billion annual tax break for exporters that has been declared illegal by the World Trade Organization, and replace it with a tax reduction for manufacturers in the United States.

The bill's tax breaks are worth about $140 billion over 10 years, but it is supposed to raise the same amount of money by closing tax shelters, raising customs fees and eliminating the old tax benefit.

On Friday night, Senate leaders overcame objections by opponents of the bill, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who were angry that it would provide a $10 billion buyout for tobacco farmers without subjecting tobacco products to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.

Opponents could not muster enough votes to block the bill through a filibuster, so Mr. Kennedy and his allies settled for separate voice votes in favor of tobacco regulation and against new overtime rules.

But those bills are unlikely to become law because the House has not passed similar measures.

Voting for the bill were 25 Democrats, 43 Republicans and the Senate's one independent, James Jeffords of Vermont. Voting against it were 14 Democrats and 3 Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, Mike DeWine of Ohio and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.





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