Outrage is building online after reports emerged on Sunday that the draft language of the emergency coronavirus relief package includes a tax break for corporate meal expenses pushed by the White House and strongly denounced by some congressional Democrats, according to a summary of the deal circulating among congressional officials and officials who are familiar with the provision.
According to the Washington Post, the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a proposal that had not yet been publicly released.
“President Trump has for months talked about securing the deduction — derisively referred to as the “three-martini lunch” by critics — as a way to revive the restaurant industry badly battered by the pandemic,” the Post reports. “But critics said it would do little to help struggling restaurants and would largely benefit business executives who do not urgently need help at this time. Some Democrats recoiled at the proposal, though it has also been denounced as ineffective by conservative tax experts as well.”
“During negotiations, however, Democratic leaders agreed to the provision in exchange for Republicans agreeing to expand tax credits for low-income families and the working poor in the final package, according to a Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of internal negotiations,” according to the Post.
“Republicans are nickel-and-diming benefits for jobless workers, while at the same time pushing for tax breaks for three-martini power lunches. It’s unconscionable,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.
Sen. Ron Wyden: "Republicans are nickel-and-diming benefits for jobless workers, while at the same time pushing for tax breaks for three-martini power lunches. It’s unconscionable." https://t.co/UOT4XTywe3
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 21, 2020
At the White House in April, Trump urged that the U.S. “go back to the original” version of a tax deduction for entertainment and meals.
The president added: “They’ll send their executives, they’ll send people there, and they get a deduction. That is something that will really bring life back to the restaurants; I think make them hotter than before. You know, they used to have it. And when they ended it, it was really never the same. It was never the same.”
Outraged taxpayers blasted the White House and GOP members for prioritizing a tax break for corporate meals over tax credits or financial relief for low-income families and the working poor.
With Republicans controlling the Senate, Americans facing hunger or eviction get $600 and tycoons get to deduct their Mad Men-style martini lunches. That’s where their priorities lie. https://t.co/gmvb4BeFds pic.twitter.com/QeRK52EXql
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) December 21, 2020
My constituents are desperate and $600 of stimulus doesn’t cut it. How about cutting the tax deductibility of double martini lunches and double the stimulus checks instead?
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) December 19, 2020
GOP: People are fine with $600.
GOP: The rich need tax breaks for martini lunches.
Deceived voters: GOP cares about me.
Old quip: There's something wrong with a tax system that allows executives to deduct a martini lunch while workers cant deduct the cost of a bologna sandwich
— Kurt "Masks Save Lives" Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 21, 2020
— TG (@TGSOFL) December 21, 2020
— Amy Fried (@ASFried) December 21, 2020