Delegation splits on tax cut vote

WASHINGTON-Connecticut’s congressional delegation was split over the $857 billion tax cut package that won final House approval in a midnight vote on Thursday.

Reps. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Jim Himes, D-4th District, both supported the package, even as they expressed distaste with some key elements.

Courtney said he had been torn over the measure, which would extend all the Bush-era tax breaks, including those making over $250,000 a year. It would also extend unemployment benefits for long-term laid-off workers, cut payroll taxes by 2 percent, and set the estate tax at 35 percent for inheritances valued at $5 million or more.

Both Courtney and Himes, along with other members of the delegation, strongly opposed the estate tax provision, saying it would benefit only the super-rich.

But those two Democrats said they were too worried about a possible end-game in which Congress deadlocked over the lower-tier income tax cuts, which would have resulted in a tax increase for nearly all Americans come Jan. 1.

“It’s just too risky to sacrifice the middle class and the unemployment benefits to a completely doubtful endgame,” Courtney said. “You’re not going to play chicken with people’s lives.”

Himes had long supported the extension of the all the Bush-era income breaks, even those for the wealthy, saying it was not wise to raise taxes on anyone in this tepid economy. He criticized the estate tax provision as “overly permissive” but said the package was otherwise a reasonable deal.

Others in the delegation disagreed, voting to reject the $857 billion deal brokered by the White House and Senate Republicans.   

Reps. John Larson, Rosa DeLauro, and Chris Murphy, Democrats representing the 1st, 3rd, and 5th districts respectively, all said the tax cut deal was a sop to the rich that would add billions of dollars to the national debt.

“I have fought and will always fight for the smart, targeted tax cuts that create jobs and spur the economy,” DeLauro said in a statement. “But this legislation moves our country in the wrong direction. It emphasizes tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at a time when we should be focused on helping the middle-class, reducing unemployment, and strengthening the economy.”