What: All Issues : Fair Taxation : HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to express the desire to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax provided that it did not increase the deficit/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 270)
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HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to express the desire to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax provided that it did not increase the deficit/On the motion
senate Roll Call 270     Jul 19, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was part of a disagreement between Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and John Kerry, D-Mass., related to federal income tax policy. Specifically, the vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Kerry that would have put the Senate on record as endorsing repealing the alternative minimum tax (AMT) as long as it did not increase the deficit. Kerry tried to tack this language onto an amendment Kyl had offered earlier as a way of expressing his displeasure over Kyl's amendment. The amendment battle occurred as part of an unrelated bill that would overhaul student loans.

Kyl's amendment, which Kerry sought to modify, would permanently repeal the AMT. Devised in 1969, the AMT was intended as a way to capture more tax revenues from a handful of very wealthy people so adept at using loopholes that they paid little into the federal treasury. But the program has come under scrutiny in recent years, because an increasing number of middle-class taxpayers have found themselves subject to the tax. This is largely because the AMT's formulas do not account for inflation or recent tax cuts.

Kerry offered an amendment to Kyl's amendment that would have put the Senate on record as endorsing the view that Congress should provide relief from the AMT, and "eliminate wasteful spending, such as spending on unnecessary tax loopholes, in order to fully offset the cost of such repeal."

Kerry said Kyl's amendment is irresponsible and would cost the federal treasury $872 billion. "If we are going to do the AMT, which all of us believe we ought to do, we ought to do it in a responsible way that raises the question of unnecessary spending, closing tax loopholes, and doing what is necessary to try to pay for this. That is what my amendment suggests. If you want to vote somehow to do something about the AMT, let's vote in a responsible way, do it in a way that repeals those loopholes, looks at the Tax Code, and pays for that purpose," Kerry said.

Kyl admitted that his amendment does not pay for the loss of tax revenue that would be caused by repealing the AMT. But, he said, "I happen to believe, as the chairman of the Finance Committee does, that is a responsible action, given the number of Americans who otherwise would be subject to the tax." Kyl then used a procedural motion to attempt to kill Kerry's amendment on the grounds that it is not related (or "germane") enough to the underlying student loan bill.

In some cases, when portions of a bill violate certain congressional rules, the bill can be quickly defeated with these procedural motions unless the Senate votes to waive the rule in question. One of these Senate rules requires that amendments be related to the subject of the bill itself. When Kyl moved to have the amendment defeated on the grounds that it was not "germane" enough to the underlying bill, Kerry called a vote on waiving that Senate rule for his amendment, which is what this vote was on.

By a vote of 48-48, the Senate rejected Kerry's request that the Senate waive its rules and allow his amendment to go forward. Though the vote was tied, this particular type of motion requires three-fifths of the Senate (60 votes) before it is considered approved. All Republicans present voted against waiving the rules. All but one Democrat present voted for waiving the rules (Robert Byrd of West Virginia). Thus, the waiver motion was defeated, and as a result Kerry's amendment that would have put the Senate on record as endorsing repealing the AMT as long as it did not increase the deficit was killed.

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