Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) is trying to use the Senate to message on tax issues. The problem is that this political ploy is unconstitutional.
It is important to note that any big tax idea—whether it be comprehensive tax reform, the President’s idea to extend only certain aspects of the 2001 and 2003 tax policies, or the Republican idea to extend all of the policies for one year—has no chance of passing before the election. Every major tax idea is merely messaging.
Per Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution (the Origination Clause), tax bills are supposed to originate in the House, yet Reid has forced votes on the tax-related “Buffett Rule” and the Violence Against Women Act, which was rejected by the House because it unconstitutionally originated a revenue-raising provision. The Buffett Rule never passed the Senate.
It is possible for the Senate to debate tax issues if it takes up a House-passed tax bill. The House can start a tax discussion that triggers a tax debate in the Senate. But Senators are not even pretending to legislate by taking up a tax bill; they are merely rolling out Senate-originated tax ideas for debate in the Senate. This violates Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution.
Today, Reid is forcing a cloture vote on S. 2237, the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act. The bill provides temporary tax credits for increased payroll and extends allowance for bonus depreciation for certain business assets.
The Associated Press describes the $29 billion bill as follows:
The legislation would grant tax credits—which are subtracted from a company’s tax bill—equal to 10 percent of the amount its 2012 payroll exceeds the salaries it paid in 2011. The maximum credit would be $500,000, a figure that would disproportionately help smaller businesses. It would also let companies that buy major new property in 2012, such as machinery, deduct the entire cost of the purchase this year. Currently they can only deduct half the amount.
This may be a laudable idea and something that may be subject to a good faith negotiation, yet that is not going to happen. Reid’s plan is to roll out this bill, use a procedural tactic to block all amendments, then force a show vote to make believe that opponents of the bill are against small-business tax measures.
Somebody in the Senate needs to stand up to Reid’s political ploy to restore the proper role of the Senate in tax debates.