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Hakeem Jeffries Wanted a Massive Tax Cut for the Rich. Now, He Says They Aren’t ‘Paying Their Fair Share’

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on February 2, 2022 in Washington, DC. House Democratic leadership held a news conference to discuss Democratic agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
• February 11, 2022 1:20 pm

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On Tuesday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries blamed Republicans for preventing the rich from "paying their fair share." But just months prior, the New York Democrat threatened to oppose any spending bill that did not include a half-trillion-dollar tax cut for the wealthy.

During his Tuesday press conference, Jeffries accused Republican lawmakers of doing "everything possible to elevate the fortunes of the wealthy, the well-off, and the well-connected, and prevent them from paying their fair share." But Jeffries helped lead the charge in the Democratic Party to reinstate the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction, which gives wealthy Americans in blue states a sizable tax discount by allowing them to deduct the amount they pay in state and local income tax from their reported federal income.

While Republicans capped the deduction at $10,000 in 2017, Democrats floated a proposal last year to allow an unlimited deduction through President Joe Biden's $2 trillion social spending bill. The policy would have cost an estimated $500 billion, making it the bill's most expensive provision. Roughly $400 billion of that revenue loss would have gone to the top 5 percent of households, and a Committee for a Responsible Budget study found that households making less than $100,000 a year would see virtually no benefit.

In an April 2020 letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Jeffries and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D., N.J.) acknowledged that a repeal of the SALT deduction cap would benefit "high earners." Jeffries continued to press Pelosi to institute a "full repeal of the SALT limitation" last year, writing in another letter to the House speaker that the millionaire tax cut "is a matter of fundamental fairness."

Jeffries, who did not return a request for comment, went on to vote in November for an $80,000 cap through Biden's bill. But not all Democrats supported the giveaway to the wealthy—Rep. Jared Golden (D., Maine) refused to back the legislation due to its "$280 billion tax giveaway to millionaires."

"Many of my colleagues argue this major line item is worth accepting to pass the rest of the bill. I disagree: The SALT giveaway in the Build Back Better Act is larger than the child care, pre-K, health care, or senior care provisions of the bill," Golden said in a statement. "As a result, the legislation would give a millionaire nearly 20 times more money than it would provide a low-income family through the Child Tax Credit."

In addition to Jeffries's support for an unlimited SALT deduction, the Democrat pays just $213 a year in property taxes thanks to a sweetheart deal he supported as a state lawmaker, the New York Post reported last month. The minuscule property tax payment comes despite the fact that Jeffries's New York City condo is worth over a million dollars. Jeffries earned nearly $2 million from his former law firm in 2016, though he hadn't worked there since 2012, when he entered Congress.

Jeffries is widely considered to be a favorite to succeed Pelosi as House Democratic leader. Pelosi, who is 81 years old, announced in late January that she will run for a 19th term in Congress.