Washington — The Senate late Sunday resolved a dispute delaying passage of a sweeping corporate tax bill and two spending bills for disaster relief and homeland security, clearing the way for senators to adjourn today to hit the campaign trail.
The agreement removed parliamentary roadblocks thrown up by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to express her unhappiness that the tax measure did not include pay support for members of the Reserves and National Guard, and by Sen. Tom Harkin, who was blocking passage of two spending bills.
The agreement, announced by Majority Leader Bill Frist, will allow the Senate to vote today on a bill that will provide $136 billion in new tax breaks for businesses and other groups and $10.1 billion separately to buy out tobacco farmers' government quotas.
It also would allow votes on a bill helping hurricane victims and farmers suffering from drought, flood and other emergencies and a bill to fund the homeland security.
Landrieu was seeking to get approval for another bill that would give employers a tax credit if they made up the pay their employees lose when they are called to active duty in the Reserves or National Guard.
Landrieu's proposal would provide a 50 percent tax credit to employers for up to $30,000 in salary payments a year and was estimated to have a $2.5 billion cost over 10 years.
Under the agreement, the Senate will take up and approve on a voice vote today her proposal on active duty pay, sending it to the House where Republican leaders are opposed to the measure.
In an agreement reached with Harkin, both of the spending bills are scheduled to be approved on voice vote this afternoon, and he will get a vote on a motion to instruct Senate conferees to seek to restore cuts in an agriculture conservation program that had triggered his weekend filibuster.
The hurricane and farm disaster package includes $14.5 billion in spending, while Congress is seeking to spend $33 billion to finance the Department of Homeland Security.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, who helped engineer the deal, said that Democrats understood "this has been a very difficult and trying time for the entire Senate," but he said it was important to deal with the issues that had been raised.
Both sides predicted lopsided approval of the bill in the Senate, which will send the measure to President Bush for his signature. The package, the most sweeping overhaul of corporate tax law since 1986, provides a wide range of tax benefits for native Alaskan whalers, importers of Chinese ceiling fans and NASCAR race track owners.
The centerpiece of the tax legislation is $76.5 billion in new tax relief for the battered manufacturing sector, which has lost 2.7 million jobs over the past four years. But manufacturing is broadly defined to include not just factories but also oil and gas producers, engineering, construction and architectural firms and large farming operations.