USA Today claimed in an article that the "rising cost" of the economic stimulus bill "could be a challenge" for President Barack Obama, noting that a provision intended to "protect about 24 million Americans from paying higher taxes under the alternative minimum tax [AMT]" constituted the "major Senate addition" that increased the bill's cost. However, USA Today did not point out that the amendment was added by Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley.
In a January 29 USA Today article, Richard Wolf and David Jackson reported that the "cost of President [Barack] Obama's economic stimulus package rose to $888 billion in the Senate on Wednesday" and claimed that the "rising cost and lack of GOP votes could be a challenge for the new president, who has preached fiscal responsibility and bipartisanship." While Wolf and Jackson noted that a provision intended to "protect about 24 million Americans from paying higher taxes under the alternative minimum tax [AMT]" constituted the "major Senate addition" that increased the bill's cost, they did not point out that Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley (IA) proposed the AMT amendment, which was ultimately included in the committee's bill.
Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, proposed the amendment, "AMT One-Year Patch," during the committee's January 27 markup of the recovery bill. The amendment provides a "one-year 'patch' for 2009 to keep the number of individual AMT payers [the] same as 2008" by increasing tax exemption amounts for individuals and joint filers. According to the amendment, which passed in committee, "The estimated cost of this proposal is $69.8 billion over ten years" [emphasis in original].
In a January 28 article, The New York Times reported that the AMT amendment's "cost would drive the overall package's tally to nearly $900 billion" and noted that the AMT provision "was a priority for Senator Charles E. Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, who added it Tuesday."
From USA Today's January 29 article, "Cost of Senate's stimulus plan hits $888B":
The cost of President Obama's economic stimulus package rose to $888 billion in the Senate on Wednesday, even as an $819 billion version passed the House without any Republican support.
The rising cost and lack of GOP votes could be a challenge for the new president, who has preached fiscal responsibility and bipartisanship.
The Democratic bill includes tax cuts for about 95% of working Americans -- $500 for individuals, $1,000 for couples -- and for small businesses. The major Senate addition: $70 billion to protect about 24 million Americans from paying higher taxes under the alternative minimum tax.
From the Times January 28 article, "House Passes Stimulus Plan Despite G.O.P Opposition":
As Senate Democrats prepare to bring their version of the package to the floor on Monday, House Democrats and the administration indicated they would ultimately accept a provision in the emerging Senate package that would adjust the alternative minimum tax to hold down many middle-class Americans' income taxes for 2009. The provision was not in the House legislation.
Its cost would drive the overall package's tally to nearly $900 billion. That would exceed the roughly $850 billion limit that Mr. Obama has set for Congress, House Democratic leadership aides said, and leave no room for other proposals that senators of both parties are poised to seek during Senate debate next week.
Democrats' own differences aside, they also are under pressure from the White House to be open to proposals from Senate Republicans who might support the final legislation if their interests are accommodated, and which might draw a few Republican supporters on a final vote next month in the House.
The provision on the alternative minimum tax, for example, was a priority for Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, who added it Tuesday in the Finance Committee's work on the legislation.