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Democrats clash on billionaire tax as Neal rejects Senate plan

Laura Davison and Laura Litvan, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — The head of the House tax-writing committee said a proposal to put a levy on the assets of billionaires won’t be part of negotiations on President Joe Biden’s social spending bill, injecting new uncertainty into how Democrats will pay for the president’s agenda.

Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal said Wednesday that there isn’t support for the billionaire tax to get it through Congress. He said the House is discussing with the Senate instead inclusion of a 3% surtax, on top of the top income rate, for those earning more than $10 million.

But the author of the billionaires’ tax proposal, Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, insisted that the plan isn’t dead, and that every senator is sending staff to a briefing by his committee on how it would work.

“Last time I looked, the United States Senate has a say, too. And so we are continuing to work with members,” he said.

Opposition to the billionaire tax in the House and Senate just a few hours after it was introduced, and after the White House said Biden backed the plan, illustrates how far Democrats are from completing work on the centerpiece of their domestic agenda despite optimistic statements from party leaders. Several other revenue provisions, including a plan for new reporting requirements for bank accounts, along with key policy planks such as family leave also are in flux.

The Wyden-Neal tensions also showcase the increasingly tough wrangling among Democrats to get a deal on a social spending package that could approach $2 trillion and enact many of the party’s long-time goals.


Neal was among the Democratic lawmakers who had expressed skepticism about the proposal. Sen. Joe Manchin, who along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has successfully reshaped the size and contours of the tax and spending package in recent weeks, also expressed concern, calling it a “convoluted” approach.

“None of us in the Democratic caucus in the House have any problem with asking billionaires for more money, that’s fine, but this happened all of a sudden,” Neal said.

Wyden dismissed Neal’s declaration that it was out of the plan.

“Not a single senator has come close to saying, ‘I think it’s OK that billionaires continue to pay little or nothing in taxes for years on end,'” Wyden said.

Wyden proposed the billionaire tax as an alternative to raising rates on top earners and corporations to help fund an expansive plan for social programs and to address climate change. Opposition by Sinema to raising rates forced Democrats to look elsewhere for revenue.

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