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House GOP Takes Another Shot at Buffett Over Taxes

Warren Buffett's assistant Debbie Bosanek speaks with NBC's Tom Brokaw in this frame grab from a 2007 report on Buffett's call for higher taxes on the super-rich.
Warren Buffett's assistant Debbie Bosanek speaks with NBC's Tom Brokaw in this frame grab from a 2007 report on Buffett's call for higher taxes on the super-rich.

House Republicans have taken a thinly veiled shot at Warren Buffett by using his name for a bill making it easier to "write a check" to help pay back a bit of the United State's $16 trillion public debt.

Ever since the Berkshire Hathaway CEO's high-profile call last August for higher tax rates on the very rich, including himself, Republicans and other critics, have responded that if Buffett thinks his taxes are too low he should just make a donation to the Federal government.

Buffett has said that argument misses his point that the current tax structure is unfair because it allows people with a lot of investment income to pay a lower tax rate than those with smaller incomes. His famous example is that he pays a much lower portion of his income in taxes than his secretary does.

By a voice vote, the House has passed H.R. 6410, titled the "Buffett Rule Act of 2012." It now goes to the Senate where quick action is unlikely as Congress nears adjournment. If it is picked up after the November elections, its fate is "uncertain."

The bill would create a checkbox on federal income tax forms giving taxpayers the option of including a donation "to be used exclusively for the purpose of paying down the national debt."

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-Michigan) argued during floor debate that the checkbox is needed because "it is not enough to speak in political platitudes about what we can do to reduce our debt. Now you can put your money where your mouth is."

Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on that same panel says there's "nothing wrong with this bill except the label... (It) has zero to do with the Buffett rule. It has everything to do with thr absolute refusal of Republicans to face the basic issue."

The "Buffett Rule" proposed by President Obama, and highlighted in his State of the Union address, would have required some Americans with high incomes to pay a mimimum 30 percent tax rate.

That proposal was killed in the Senate last April when it fell short of the 60 votes needed to avoid a Republican fillibuster.

The GOP "Buffett" bill would make it more convenient to donate, but there is already a mechanism for the Treasury Department to accept money aimed at paying down the debt, and it is being used.

A page on Pay.gov allows you to use a credit card or electronic payment from a checking account.

Treasury will also accept old-fashioned paper checks at an address in West Virginia.

In the 2012 fiscal year to date, over $7.6 million has been donated. That's more than double 2011's $3.3 million.

Keep up with Warren Buffett on CNBC.com and follow alexcrippen on Twitter.

Email comments to buffettwatch@cnbc.com

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