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updated: 12/16/2010 11:55 PM

Suburban representatives say yes to tax deal

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By Kerry Lester

Many suburban members of Illinois' congressional delegation weren't thrilled with aspects of a sweeping piece of legislation that would extend tax cuts to Americans at every income level rather than let them expire.

All the same, every single one of them voted for it, citing a need to protect a fragile economy just beginning to show signs of recovery from one of the gravest recessions in the nation's history.

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Democrats Melissa Bean, Bill Foster, Jan Schakowsky and Debbie Halvorson, along with Republicans Judy Biggert, Don Manzullo and Peter Roskam late Thursday each voted for passage of the legislation, negotiated last week.

Their votes joined those of Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who Wednesday helped pass the measure out of the upper chamber by an 81-19 margin.

In a passionate speech on the House floor, Roskam, of Wheaton, told his colleagues that a tax increase come Jan. 1 "has the potential to push us ... toward a spiral that's further and further down."

He addressed both Republicans and Democrats who suggested that a better deal might be crafted with more time.

"Let's think that through for a second. ... It's not until mid-March when corporations and taxpayers can deal with it. We're at the best-case scenario. You're sucking the life out of the economy for 90 days. And what does that do to all of our constituents? That puts us in a downward trajectory that none of us wants."

Roskam said the "message" of the Nov. 2 election, where a number of long-term incumbents were unseated, reminded Congress that "we all need to come together and work together."

The $858 billion legislation that will add to the nation's deficit would extend tax cuts first instituted under President George W. Bush for the next two years, renew jobless benefits for the unemployed, and cut Social Security taxes for a year. It also would raise the amount of money exempted from being taxed in a deceased person's estate to $5 million, and would tax the rest at 35 percent.

Obama announced early last week that he'd negotiated a compromise with Republicans who will take control of the House in January and pick up a number of seats in the Senate.

Senate Republicans signed a pledge to take no action on any legislation until the tax compromise had passed.

And Democratic leaders unhappy with the estate tax provision spent recent days trying to lower the amount that can be inherited tax-free to $3.5 million, upping the percentage the remainder would be taxed to 45 percent. But Republicans, ultimately, left little wiggle room in a deal Obama pushed to get done.

Rep. Danny Davis, a Chicago Democrat, noted he'd decided to vote for the measure after speaking with the president. Biggert, a Hinsdale Republican, noted that the agreement wasn't perfect she'd hoped the tax extensions would be permanent and the estate tax eliminated but that it was a compromise that would ultimately protect families and businesses.

Of the representatives from Illinois, only Jesse Jackson Jr., a Chicago Democrat, spoke out against the package, which he said would not only ratchet up the nation's deficit but "put more pressure on Congress and the president to cut more programs when we convene this year."

In a statement, Obama noted that the package was "a win for American families, American businesses, and our economic recovery."

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