WASHINGTON – Democratic senators said yesterday they would introduce legislation this week that would put into law President Obama’s principle that the super-rich should pay at least the tax rate of middle-class workers.
But the effort to press the populist tax agenda Obama outlined in his State of the Union address could divide Democrats since many of them are more eager to talk about “tax fairness’’ and Medicare in an election year than to try to raise taxes.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, the author of what has been dubbed the Buffett Rule bill, said he was serious about a legislative push this year. He said he might press his legislation as a stand-alone bill or seek to attach it to other legislation.
He cited the billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s oft-repeated assertion that he pays a lower percentage of his income in taxes than his secretary does. Whitehouse also cited a review that showed that the residents of the posh Helmsley Building in Manhattan paid a collective tax rate of 14.7 percent on their considerable incomes.
Whitehouse said he had the support of at least two other Democrats on the bill. He said more support will come after the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation releases an official number for the amount of revenue the bill would raise. That “score’’ was requested by Democratic Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland.
The bill, following the rough contours laid out by Obama last week, creates what would be an alternative minimum tax for the super-rich. Households with adjusted annual gross incomes over $1 million would do their taxes as they do now, with all the deductions, credits, and loopholes intact. They would also calculate what 30 percent of their adjusted gross incomes amounts to. They would then pay whichever amount is larger.
Democratic leaders are not rushing to embrace the legislation. Their main initiative this week will be legislation prohibiting members of Congress from voting on bills that directly affect their investment portfolios. Senators last
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