Political Scene

SENATE

Conrad supports extending all tax cuts

A fiscally conservative Democrat who chairs the Senate Budget Committee Wednesday said he supports extending all of the tax cuts that expire this year, including for wealthier people.

“The general rule of thumb would be you’d not want to do tax changes, tax increases … until the recovery is on more solid ground,” Sen. Kent Conrad said in an interview with reporters outside the Senate chambers, adding he did not believe the recovery has come yet.

Lawmakers are mulling the renewal of tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 under then-President George W. Bush that expire at the end of this year. President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress want to extend the lower rates for individuals earning less than $200,000 or couples making less than $250,000.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, another fiscally conservative Democrat, earlier this month questioned whether the country could afford to extend the tax cuts for the wealthier groups, citing the yawning budget deficit.

The federal government has run deficits for several years, with the 2010 budget expected to be more than $1 trillion in the red. The issue has stalled several spending bills in Congress, including extension of unemployment insurance now being debated in the Senate.

HOUSE

Waxman: Auto bill may move in August

A top lawmaker says the House will try to advance an overhaul of auto safety laws when Congress returns from its August recess.

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Democratic Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, said Wednesday that he is hopeful the House will consider upgrading auto safety laws in the aftermath of Toyota’s recall of more than 8.5 million vehicles.

The legislation would increase penalties against car companies, require automakers to meet new safety standards and empower the government to demand a recall.

Business groups and automakers have opposed portions of the bill that would add fees to new vehicles and bolster fines against the companies.

HOUSE

Lawmakers OK drilling safety, cleanup bills

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