Senate Approves Tax Compromise
On Monday, Senator Nelson voted for a procedural motion to bring the negotiated, bipartisan compromise over expiring tax cuts and unemployment insurance benefits to a final vote in the Senate. The motion passed by a vote of 83-15. The bill extends unemployment benefits for an additional 13 months, extends income tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 for an additional two years, and includes a number of other provisions aimed at encouraging investment and job creation.
The bill includes a one-year, 2 percent reduction in Social Security payroll taxes for 155 million workers. The bill extends several middle class tax cuts enacted in the 2009 Recovery Act, such as the American Opportunity tax credit for higher education expenses. The legislation also includes provisions of particular importance to Florida taxpayers, such as an extension of the individual itemized deduction for state sales taxes and the Treasury grant program for renewable electricity projects. As part of the compromise, the bill also includes extension of the tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers and estate tax relief. The estate tax exemption amount is increased to $5 million, the exemption amount is made portable between spouses, and the maximum estate tax rate is reduced to 35 percent. The unemployment insurance provisions will prevent 7 million unemployed workers from losing their unemployment insurance over the next year.
Medicare Doc Fix
On December 8, the Senate unanimously passed a one-year delay to a scheduled 23% cut in the Medicare
physician reimbursement rate. This bill, known as the “doc fix,” cleared the House on December 10 and is now awaiting the President’s signature. Senator Nelson has consistently supported fair Medicare reimbursement rates. He supports finding a way to permanently do away with these scheduled cuts, so long as it can be done without adding to the deficit.
For the second time this year, Senator Nelson voted to begin debate on the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The cloture vote fell short of the requisite 60 votes, prohibiting the legislation from reaching the Senate floor for debate. The NDAA would authorize more than $700 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD), including funding for the ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the national security programs of the Department of Energy (DoE).
No COLA Payment for Seniors
Last Week, Senator Nelson voted for the Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act (S.3985), a bill to provide social security beneficiaries with a $250 payment in lieu of a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) next year. Unfortunately, even though the bill received a majority of votes in the Senate, it did not receive enough to overcome a filibuster. The payment would have amounted to approximately a 2 percent COLA for the average retiree, totaling nearly $920.7 million in relief for the 3.6 million Social Security recipients in Florida.
Truth in Caller ID Act
Senator Nelson’s Truth in Caller ID Act, S. 30, was scheduled for a vote in the House on Wednesday, December 15. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent earlier this year; if it’s passed by the House, it will go to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Senator Nelson cosigned a bipartisan letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice urging her to refrain from participating in the Durban III World Conference Against Racism in New York City on September 21, 2011. Like previous Durban conferences, there is great concern that extreme anti-Semitic voices and a disproportionate focus on Israel will take over the Durban III summit, slated to be held just days after the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The letters’ signatories urge the U.S. to announce it will not participate in next year’s conference unless the Durban participants return to the original focus of the forum: combating discrimination and racism worldwide.
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