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Tax cutting on Capitol Hill gets personal

The president threw down the gauntlet when it comes to taxes and the federal debt limit. Now Capitol Hill plans to make the tax cut fight personal.

Senate Democrats today plan to force a vote on tax loopholes, many of which are championed by their Republican counterparts. They're starting with a tax break that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got included in 2008 legislation: $126 million in tax breaks for the horse-racing industry.

Or as it's been dubbed, the Bluegrass Boondoggle.

Three years ago, the senior Senator from Kentucky was looking after his constituents, many of whom depend on the success of thoroughbreds, when he authored the tax break allowing for accelerated, three-year depreciation for racehorses.

The speedier write-off, argued McConnell back then, was a fair tax move given the animals' limited racing life:

"The horse industry employs 50,000 Kentuckians and contributes $3.5 billion to our economy year-round. By adding this provision to the bill, we have ensured that this important part of our farm economy is treated fairly."

But one Republican's fairness issue is another Democrat's tax gift to fat cats. And vice versa.

So today's plan is to spotlight a long list of tax loopholes on the Senate floor, with opponents of the tax breaks making sure their partisan connections are clearly exposed. They include:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is spearheading the tax loophole exposure campaign.

"There should be no sacred cows, and there should be no sacred horses," Merkley said. The McConnell tax break, he said, "is just one example of the special favors for the well-connected that need to be reviewed as we deal with our deficit."

Merkley also rejected the 
anti-tax argument that eliminating tax breaks is tantamount to increasing taxes.

"Any sane person recognizes that these are spending programs," Merkley said. That was the same argument that his Republican colleague Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma made when he fought to end the ethanol tax subsidy.

How many Senators on both sides will agree? We should see later today.

How many loopholes will actually be closed? That wait could take much longer.

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