Washington Extra – Tax time

February 23, 2012

If President Obama did indeed schedule the release of his corporate tax revamp Wednesday to steal the spotlight from Mitt Romney’s tax plan rollout – as some critics charge – it just might have worked. The Obama plan was the top story of the day.

But perhaps more importantly, Obama neutralized corporate taxes as an election year issue by aligning himself with Republican positions.

Sure, there may be differences in the tax rates each candidate backs – Obama at 28 percent, Romney 25 percent, Santorum 17.5 percent and Gingrich 12.5 percent.

But the message is the same: cut taxes on our corporations and especially domestic manufacturers to make the United States more competitive. That’s all voters are likely to hear.

The president also showed Corporate America – not his biggest fan – that he’s willing to talk with them, at least on the tax issue. Cutting the corporate tax rate has been a top goal of big businesses for many years.

Not that it will add up to much more than political messaging, at least this year, with elections coming in November. The odds of meaningful tax legislation in 2012 are slim to none.

But come 2013, tax reform could be the big show and Obama’s plan puts him at center stage.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama urges US corporate tax cut, closing loopholes

President Obama made an opening offer in what could be a long negotiation with corporate America, putting forward his first clear plan to cut the corporate tax rate. Though it has little chance of becoming law in an election year with Congress deeply divided on fiscal issues, Obama’s plan aligns him roughly with the Republican presidential challengers and could minimize the corporate tax rate as a political issue.

For more of this story by Kim Dixon, read here.

For a factbox on winners and losers under the Obama plan, click here.

Romney proposes 28 pct top U.S. income tax rate

Republican Mitt Romney, looking for a boost in his presidential campaign, proposed an overhaul of the tax system that he said would cut Americans’ tax rates by 20 percent and limit deductions for the wealthy. Romney unveiled his proposals just hours after President Obama offered his plan.

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.

For a factbox on the Romney plan, click here.

At Arizona debate, Santorum to get his turn in spotlight

After months on the sidelines, Rick Santorum finally gets his chance at center stage in a debate of Republican presidential candidates, as well as the increased scrutiny that comes with it. Santorum, surging in opinion polls, is likely to face tough questions over his strong conservative views on social issues when he and rivals Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul gather for the 8 p.m. EST debate sponsored by CNN.

For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.

Santorum, Romney close but neither tops Obama-polls

Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are running neck-and-neck but neither would beat incumbent President Obama, according to several polls. Polls by the Associated Press/GfK and NBC News/Marist show Santorum has gained enough to close in on Romney, who had been seen as the most likely nominee in a Republican field that still has four candidates vying for the party’s nomination.

For more of this story by Susan Heavey, read here.

Listen up voters, Congress is messaging you

When is legislation put up for a vote but never expected to become law?

Answer: When it’s in Congress, where an increasing number of purely symbolic votes are expected this election year as a divided Congress tries to make points with voters.

For more of this story by Thomas Ferraro and Donna Smith, read here

Lawmakers to Obama: tamp down fuel prices with oil stocks

Three Democratic lawmakers urged the White House to signal it is ready to tap the nation’s oil stockpiles to combat surging fuel prices, arguing an “aggressive” strategy could tamp down speculation. Oil prices hit their highest level in nine months on Tuesday as tensions with Iran continue to rattle crude markets. The skyrocketing oil costs have turned U.S. gasoline prices into a key issue for the 2012 presidential election season.

For more of this story by Ayesha Rascoe, read here.

FDA panel gives nod to Vivus obesity drug

An experimental obesity drug won a panel’s support, raising hopes regulators would approve a weight-loss pill for the first time in 13 years. A panel of outside experts to the FDA voted to recommend approval of Qnexa, meant to treat obesity and its accompanying health problems.

For more of this story by Anna Yukhananov, read here.

From elsewhere…

Judge to rule if pharmacies must sell “Plan B” pills

A federal judge was expected to rule on whether Washington state can compel pharmacy owners to carry and sell the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B despite their personal religious objections to the drug. The case stems from a lawsuit brought by a family-owned pharmacy and two licensed druggists claiming their constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion is violated by a state rule requiring pharmacies to stock and dispense all medications for which there is a demonstrated community need.

For more of this story, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credits: REUTERS/Jason Reed (Obama with Vice President Biden following remarks on extension of payroll tax cut, Feb. 21); REUTERS/Joshua Lott (Santorum in Phoenix): REUTERS/Joshua Lott (Los Angeles gas station)

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