The House bill eliminating the 3% withholding rule, making it easier for government contractors to cheat on their taxes, a small part of the American Jobs Act and supported by the President, passed today, on a near-unanimous vote of 405-16. The bill was paid for through a separate measure, which changes the calculation of modified adjusted gross income by including Social Security benefits in the calculation, for the purposes of determining eligibility for programs like Medicaid and SCHIP. This fix of a “glitch” that would allow some middle-income early retirees to get nearly free Medicaid coverage (we can’t have that!), passed by a smaller amount, on a vote of 262 to 157. 27 Democrats joined 235 Republicans in supporting the bill.
While the withholding requirement passed several years ago, it had yet to go into effect.
If it had been allowed to, it would mean “huge accounting burdens on governments and potentially harmful cash-flow disruptions for suppliers, contractors and subcontractors,” said Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, the majority leader, on the House floor. “Those are dollars that could otherwise be used to grow a business or hire more workers.”
The withholding bill, the first among so-called jobs bills that Republicans and Democrats have been able to agree upon, would repeal a requirement for federal, state and local government agencies to withhold 3 percent of certain payments to companies doing business with the government and to deposit the money with the Internal Revenue Service.
How facilitating tax cheating counts as a jobs measure is beyond me, but whatever the case, the bill and its offset go to the Senate. A 3% withholding bill got 57 votes in the Senate last week, with a different offset that just reduces expenditures across the board. That was before the Administration came out in favor of the bills, however. So surely, something incorporating 3% withholding is likely to pass Congress.
The CBO estimates that federal revenues would be reduced $11 billion over 10 years by this measure. That’s a little more than 2% of the cost of the American Jobs Act. And it has almost nothing to do with jobs. But it’s destined to become law.