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« 3,000 Miles Away, Obama Plugs Electric Cars | Blog Home Page | Obama Asks For Patience, And A Campaign-Like Focus From Californians »

House Passes Corporate Bonus Tax

The House passed H.R. 1586 this afternoon, taxing at a 90 percent rate executive bonuses paid by companies that received at least $5 billion in bailouts from the government.

The bill passed on a 328-93 vote, more than the necessary two-thirds majority. Republicans split on the vote, with 85 Members, including Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), voting for it and 87 against it. Just six Democrats voted against the bill.

Congress's move to tax these bonuses stems from the outrage caused by the $165 million in retention bonuses that AIG, which the federal government has given tens of billions of dollars in bail-out funds, recently paid to employees. This bill, if agreed to in the Senate and signed by President Obama, would affect AIG bonuses as well as other companies that have received substantial government dollars, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Prior to the vote, Republicans on the House floor hammered the plan, calling it simply a rewrite and cover-up of history. GOP Members also questioned how a provision in the economic stimulus bill that would have capped bonus payments at $100,000 was stripped from the package during conference committee. It's unknown who stripped the Senate-approved provision written by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) also admitted yesterday on CNN that he helped write a loophole in the stimulus bill that allowed any bonuses paid before February 11, 2009, to be exempted.

While Democrats attempted to look forward, Republicans were not inclined to let that happen. Pressed on the House floor by Republicans to answer what happened to the bonus restrictions, Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said he didn't know.

"I was not a member of the conference committee," Frank said. "So the answer is I am not familiar with whatever the reasons were as to why this was left out. I will say this, had there been no language whatsoever, we still would not have had the authority. In other words, what did survive was additional authority. Now, if there had been no bill whatsoever, we would not have come even this close."

Frank went on to say that he had no recollection of GOP members of his committee asking to increase restrictions on executive bonuses, calling their interest in compensation restrictions a "fairly newfound hobby."

During an off-camera briefing with reporters earlier in the afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) refused to discuss what happened in the conference committee, and he instead criticized Republicans for their attacks on the Democratic plan.

"Once again, Republicans are doing what they've always done in this Congress. And that is to do nothing," Reid said. "I'm always hoping for the sun going up. With Republicans, it's always going down."

Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the top ranking Members on the Finance Committee, are working on a similar bonus-tax plan in the Senate. Reid said he hoped the Senate could take up the bill before the chamber's two week-long recess in early April.