Neal suggests using tax cut funds to pay for ongoing wars

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By Vicki Needham/ The Hill

The expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be used to pay for the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said the nearly $700 billion saved by allowing the tax cuts to expire for the nation’s wealthiest Americans could help pay for the nation’s long-term obligation for the wars.

Neal also said that a Senate bill that includes only funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and disaster aid could have trouble getting through the House.

He said it would be “difficult” for the House to take up the Senate’s streamlined bill and “ask for an up-or-down vote on it.”

“We have a long-term obligation in Iraq to our veterans and the veterans’ hospitals as an example of what’s going to happen over the next 30 to 40 years,” Neal said Tuesday on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line.” “That will be north of $1 trillion, and when you consider before the war in Iraq is over, that will be another $1 trillion. We’re talking about some serious challenges that we face, and I think putting the Bush tax cuts on the table to pay for those costs is a very timely matter.”

The Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year, and the Senate Finance Committee is talking about marking up a bill dealing with the issue before the August recess.

Letting tax cuts expire for those making $250,000 or more each year would provide for a boost of about $700 billion.

Democrats have discussed letting those tax cuts expire while keeping those for the middle class in place.

The supplemental spending bill for the troops, passed by the Senate in late May, would cost $58.8 billion bill. That measure has the support of House Appropriations Republicans who are pushing for a “clean” bill focused on providing the Pentagon with the necessary funding.

Of that nearly $60 billion, about $37 billion is for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Senate could take up the war funding bill sometime this week.

The House-passed measure — an $81.3 billion package — also includes nearly $23 billion in education funding and other issues, paid for with various cuts in other programs. 

That bill isn’t likely to gain enough support to pass the Senate and, according to Neal today, the same goes for the Senate’s bill in the House.

Some of those offsets in the House bill have riled the White House, including a proposed 40 percent cut — or about $500 million — to the $1.35 billion fiscal 2011 request for President Obama’s “Race to the Top” education program.

Obama has threatened to veto the House legislation over the cut. 

Paid for and Authorized by the Neal for Congress Committee
Richard E. Neal for Congress Committee, Treasurer Michael F. Hall

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