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Marriage tax relief approved in Senate, faces veto threat

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate passed legislation July 18 to provide relief for married couples under the tax code, but President Clinton threatened to veto the bill unless Congress approves an initiative he is promoting.

The Senate voted 61-38 for a bill designed to address portions of the tax code that penalize taxpayers for being married. Under the code, more than 20 million married couples pay a yearly average of about $1,400 more in taxes than they would if they lived together without being married.

The Senate-approved measure raises the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly to twice the standard deduction for people filing as singles; it increases the lowest two tax brackets to twice as much as the corresponding bracket for single filers; and it makes more lower-income married couples eligible for Earned Income Credit aid.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission applauded the bill’s passage.

“Our current tax system rewards people living outside marriage, and if the tax code is going to lean in one direction or another, it should certainly reward marriage,” said Shannon Royce, the ERLC’s legislative counsel. “At the very least it should treat marriage equally.

“The bottom line is marriage shouldn’t be taxed,” Royce said.

The House earlier had approved marriage-penalty legislation. Republican leaders reportedly hope to work out differences between the bills quickly in a conference committee and bring the compromise version back for votes in both houses later this week.

After the Senate action, the president reiterated his intention to veto the legislation. He said, however, he would sign the bill if Congress would approve Medicare prescription drug coverage for senior adults. Republican leaders appear unlikely to grant the president his request, according to media reports.

Clinton and his Democratic allies favor targeting lower-income families with relief rather than eliminating the marriage penalty more comprehensively.

Eight Democrats joined all but one Republican in voting for the Senate version.

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