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Senate candidates argue about business tax break

To Merkley, repeal is 'no-brainer,' to Wehby, 'election-year gimmick'


The U.S. Senate has thwarted legislation to end tax advantages for businesses that move jobs abroad and give a partial tax credit for businesses that move jobs back.

Wednesday’s vote to end debate on S. 2569 was 54-42, six short of the 60 required under Senate rules. The vote was largely along party lines; Oregon Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden voted to end debate and advance the bill.

A similar end-of-debate motion failed two years ago with 56 votes in favor.

The Senate proceeded to other business after the failure of the motion.

The bill still could resurface, but that’s unlikely before the congressional recess begins at the end of this week.

Merkley saw some hope when the Senate cast 93 votes to proceed to a debate on the bill earlier this month. But he also said then that the vote should not be considered an indicator of its ultimate chances for passage.

Merkley has made his position in favor of the bill an issue in his re-election bid against Republican Monica Wehby. He was a cosponsor of the original bill.

Merkley issued a statement after the vote:

“This bill is a no-brainer: When so many Americans are seeking good-paying jobs, why would we subsidize the export of our jobs overseas? Instead, we should be rewarding companies for moving their jobs back to U.S. soil – which is exactly what this bill does.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that a minority of senators are blocking this common-sense measure. In Oregon, manufacturing is the backbone of our state’s economy. If we don’t make things in America, we won’t have a middle class in America.”

Wehby is a physician from Portland who is making her first bid for public office.

Wehby’s response, issued by her campaign, says the bill is among several that discourage job creation — including the 2009 economic stimulus and 2010 national health-care overhaul, both of which Merkley voted for — and that it is "an election-year gimmick."

"This legislation perfectly encapsulates all that is wrong with Washington," she says in her statement.

"No one is a stronger advocate for domestic job creation than I am, the problem is this bill won't do that. Sadly, it is nothing more than an election year gimmick that Democrats have no intention of passing into law.

"If Jeff Merkley and his fellow career politicians were serious about job creation, and protecting American workers, a good place to start would be reforming the tax code to make American businesses more competitive globally.”

Republicans have argued that an overhaul of the federal tax code is the better way of handling such issues, but an overhaul is unlikely to materialize in either chamber of Congress this year.

Merkley's campaign has said repeatedly that Wehby would side with preserving tax breaks. Wehby has endorsed a proposal to cut top tax rates by more than Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney offered in his 2012 presidential campaign.

In a previous conference call with reporters, Merkley said 50,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared in Oregon during the decade, and attributed part of those losses to the federal tax break. He says the bill would provide a shield for 250,000 existing Oregon jobs.

The bill also would have provided a tax credit, subtracted directly from taxes owed, of up to 20 percent of costs for corporations moving jobs back to the United States.

On the vote to end debate, known as cloture, Susan Collins of Maine was the lone Republican to vote yes, and Nick Begich of Alaska — who is a re-election target of Republicans — was the lone Democrat to vote no. Three Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.

According to news reports, minority Republicans decided against closing debate on the bill after Majority Leader Harry Reid declined to allow consideration of amendments. It's part of an ongoing feud between Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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Revises headline.