Colorado delegation split 4-3 as House approves Obama tax cut compromise bill

Colorado’s congressional delegation late last night split in approving President Obama’s compromise bill to extend the Bush tax cuts in full for two years and federal unemployment benefits for one year.

Republican Mike Coffman joined Democrats Jared Polis, John Salazar and Betsey Markey in voting for the final bill, which passed 277-148 after the House first rejecting an amendment to change the estate tax provisions of the agreement.

Republican Doug Lamborn joined Democrats Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter in voting no.

H.R. 4853 – the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 – has caused dissension among rank-and-file Democrats who oppose extending the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans making more than $250,000 a year.

Polis, in a prepared statement, said the final bill was too important to middle class and unemployed Americans to let it die.

“This bill is the best thing we can do right here, right now to help working families,” said Polis, who added it contains provisions that are critical to Colorado’s New Energy Economy.

“For Colorado especially, the extension of renewable energy tax credits in the 1603 Treasury Grant Program will mean the difference between night and day for our growing green energy economy and create thousands of jobs,” he said.

The day began with a minor Democratic revolt against the rules established for the vote. Those rules initially would have allowed a vote on a single amendment to the estate tax provisions and then deemed the larger bill to have passed if that amendment fails.

Many of the more liberal Democratic opponents of the bill rejected those rules, demanding a chance for a final up or down vote on the overall bill itself. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave in and agreed to change the rules to first take a vote on the estate tax amendment, then a final vote on the overall bill as well.

The first vote, on the estate tax amendment offered by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), took place around 11:30 pm. That amendment would have taxed all estates worth more than $3.5 million at 45 percent; the original bill set the rate at 35 percent for all estates over $5 million. The Pomeroy amendment failed by a 233-194 vote.

The House then immediately moved to a vote on the full bill as passed by the Senate around 11:45 and it was passed easily with majority support from both parties.

Once President Obama signs the bill, federal unemployment benefits will be extended through the end of 2011. That means those who have not yet exhausted all of their maximum available weeks of unemployment benefits will once again be eligible for the next tier. The bill does not extend any new tiers of unemployment benefits for those who have exhausted all of their benefits, up to a maximum of 99 weeks in some states.

The bill also extends the Bush tax cuts for two years, including the cuts for the wealthiest Americans. President Obama campaigned on a platform of extending only those tax cuts for those who make less than $250,000 a year but he negotiated a deal with the Senate Republican leadership to extend all of the tax cuts in exchange for an extension of the unemployment benefits as well.

Though the Democratic Caucus in the House initially objected to that deal and held a non-binding vote to reject it, once the Senate passed it easily on Wednesday the pressure was too much for the Democrats to hold the line on the issue. Faced with the prospect of seeing taxes go up on all Americans on Jan. 1 and having the incoming Republican-controlled House pass a much worse deal, a majority of House Democrats chose to go along with a bill they did not fully support.

The Michigan Messenger’s Ed Brayton contributed to this report.

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