The Fiscal Cliff and Reforming the Filibuster Plus the 2013 Inauguration

Below is a cheat sheet of what was in the bill that passed, info on reforming the filibuster and the Inauguration.
Fiscal Cliff Cheat Sheet:
 
Tax rates: The bill permanently extends all of the Bush tax cuts for incomes below $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families, while reinstating the Clinton-era 39.6 percent tax rate for income above those thresholds.
 
Capital gains and dividends: Taxes on investment income will be permanently set to 20 percent for income above $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families. The rate will stay at 15 percent for everyone else.
 
Stimulus tax credits: Three middle class tax credits that were expanded as part of the stimulus will be extended for five years. The America’s Opportunity Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Earned Income Tax Credit collectively benefit nearly 20 million Americans each year.
 
Unemployment insurance: The federal unemployment insurance program will be extended for one year. Without an extension, more than 2 million would lose benefits at the beginning of 2013, while another million would lose them in the early part of the year.
 
Estate tax: The estate tax was set to revert to its Clinton-era levels, where it was taxed at 55 percent after a $1 million exemption. This deal would set the exemption at $5 million and tax at a 40 percent rate after that — at a cost of $375 billion over 10 years compared to the Clinton level.
 
Limits on tax exemption and deductions: Limits were reimposed on tax exemptions and deductions for higher-income Americans. The Personal Exemption Phaseout (PEP) will be set at $250,000 and the itemized deduction limitation (Pease) starts at $300,000.
 
Alternative Minimum Tax: The deal would also include a permanent fix to the Alternative Minimum Tax; which would have hit 30 million additional Americans, many in the middle class.
 
Business tax extenders: A whole host of business tax extenders; including wind tax credit extended for a year.
 
Doc Fix. A one-year “doc fix,” which would prevent cuts in provider payments through Medicare. It also extends certain corporate tax provisions for another year.
 
Sequester: The sequester will be delayed for two months. The delay will be offset by discretionary cuts, split between defense and non-defense (half) and by revenue raised by the voluntary transfer of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs (other half).
 
Payroll tax cut: The payroll tax cut expired. Republicans have opposed extending the payroll tax cut in the past; many Democrats opposed its extension over fears that it would undermine Social Security, which it helps fund.
 
Debt Ceiling: The debt ceiling was not addressed in this package.
Reforming the Filibuster
 
Since 2010, Voices for Progress has been working with Senators Merkely, Tom Udall, and Harkin, Lautenburg and Franken and with a coalition of organizations to reform the filibuster. On January 3rd or 4th, the Senate is expected to vote on a package of reforms. If the changes are made at the beginning of a new Congress, the “Constitutional Option” can be invoked so that changes require only a majority vote.The reforms we are supporting would not solve the problem, but they would make a big difference. While we cannot be sure, we believe that, if Senator Reid strongly supports them, there will enough votes to pass these reforms. Unfortunately, on Friday, Senators Levin, Schumer, Cardin and Pryor announced, along with John McCain and three other Republicans, that they would support a bipartisan proposal that will have very little impact. While Senator Levin is immoveable on this point, we are hopeful that Schumer, Cardin and Pryor may still be willing to support a stronger package if they are convinced it can pass.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Send an e-mail to Senator Reid, saying that you’re grateful for his leadership on filibuster reform, especially his support of the “talking filibuster” requirements (see below), and limiting post-cloture debate on all nominations, and that you hope he will fight to see that these reforms are adopted. Send these via whoever is your best contact to Senator Reid or via his site –http://www.reid.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm .

2. E-mail or call the following Senators to say that the Levin-McCain proposal falls far short of the necessary reform of the filibuster, and that you hope they will support using the Constitutional Option to adopt stronger rules changes that include:

  • Making applicable to all nominations, not just those for the district court and sub-cabinet, the 2-hour limit on further delay once 60 Senators have voted for cloture.
  • Requiring Senators who want to filibuster to stay on the floor and talk continuously.
  • Shifting the burden by requiring those filibustering to produce 41 votes to sustain the filibuster, instead of requiring the majority to produce 60 votes to end.
Please email or call these Senators:Senate Democratic Leadership:

Sen. Schumer via Chief of Staff Michael Lynch: michael_lynch@schumer.senate.gov;
Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Director Katie Bierne: knbeirne@gmail.com; and
Senate Rules Committee Staff Director Jean Bordewich: jean_bordewich@rules.senate.gov

Sen. Murray via Chief of Staff Mike Spahn: mike_spahn@murray.senate.gov

Sen. Durbin via Chief of Staff Pat Souders: pat_souders@durbin.senate.gov

Senators on the Fence:

Sen. Cardin via Chief of Staff Christopher Lynch: christopher_lynch@cardin.senate.gov;

Sen. Baucus via Chief of Staff Paul Wilkins: paul_wilkins@baucus.senate.gov;

Sen. Boxer via Chief of Staff Laura Schiller: laura_schiller@boxer.senate.gov;

Sen. Feinstein via Chief of Staff Chris Thompson: chris_thompson@feinstein.senate.gov;

Sen. Leahy via Chief of Staff John Dowd: john_dowd@leahy.senate.gov;

Sen. Pryor via Chief of Staff Andy York: andy_york@pryor.senate.gov;

Sen. Reed via Chief of Staff Neil Campbell: neil_campbell@reed.senate.gov

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