The House will vote this summer on continuing wide-ranging tax cuts first enacted under President George W. Bush, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Friday as the GOP sharpened its plans for confronting Democrats on one of the election's top issues.
In a memo to fellow Republican lawmakers, Cantor said the House would vote on extending those tax cuts before leaving Washington for its August recess. Without congressional action, tax rates on wages, dividends, capital gains and other earnings will rise and most Americans will face higher taxes.
In one of the defining partisan disputes of recent years, Republicans want to keep those tax cuts -- first enacted in 2001 and 2003 -- for all taxpayers. President Barack Obama and Democrats oppose renewing the tax cuts for the highest earning Americans, though they haven't agreed among themselves yet where the cutoff should be.
The House vote will be symbolic because Democrats running the Senate are sure to block a bill cutting taxes for the rich. Senate Democrats haven't decided yet whether to hold votes this summer or fall on extending the tax cuts, and whether the reductions should be renewed for people earning up to $250,000 or $1 million annually.
The two parties are expected to get more serious about working toward legislation that would actually become law after the elections, with the details dependent on who captures control of the White House, House and Senate.
The stakes will be high during that postelection period because at around the same time, lawmakers will also face the beginning of $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, the expiration of the government's borrowing authority and the end of payroll tax cuts.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had said his chamber would vote on continuing the tax cuts before this November's presidential and congressional elections. Friday's announcement by Cantor of Virginia showed that Republicans are intent on holding the showdown vote before the two parties' presidential nominating conventions in August and September.