In a surprise move, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., challenged Democrats to vote on a bill to end the Bush era tax cuts for wealthier Americans.
For the past week Senate Democrats have been pushing a bill similar to President Obama's plan to extend the tax relief for income only up to $250,000 annually. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised he had enough votes to pass the 50-vote threshold if not for McConnell blocking a procedural vote with a filibuster.
Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell says the tax hike will hurt job creators, but that he is lifting the filibuster so the American people can see where lawmakers stand.
"The only way to force people to take a stand is to make sure that today’s votes truly count. By setting these votes at a 50-vote threshold, nobody on the other side can hide behind a procedural vote while leaving their views on the actual bill itself a mystery to the people who sent them here," he says.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Reid may not have enough votes, however. A number of Democratic lawmakers have balked at the proposal and are not backing the plan.
McConnell says the plan being pushed by President Obama is purely ideological.
"He’s the leader of the Democratic Party. He’s been calling for a vote on his plan. I for one think we ought to give the president what he’s been asking for, which is a vote on his plan,” says McConnell.
The Constitution stipulates that any bill raising revenue must originate in the House, which guarantees that even if the Democratic-controlled Senate passes the bill it would be against the law. However, Reid still has a chance to out maneuver McConnell before the end of the day.
From Talking Points Memo:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can accept McConnell’s offer to hold the tax vote at a 50-vote threshold Wednesday (suggesting again that Reid has his members lined up to pass it), but insist on holding the vote under an agreement with McConnell that would resolve the blue slip problem.
Specifically, when House Republicans pass their bill at the end of the month to extend all the Bush tax cuts, it would automatically be amended by the Senate with whichever bill that passes today, and sent back to the House.
If the Democrats’ bill passes — as Reid is signaling it would — the issue gets automatically kicked back to House, putting Speaker John Boehner on the hook for taking middle income tax cuts hostage in order to preserve tax cuts for the rich.
By a 51-to-48 vote, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts for middle-class Americans. The legislation allows the breaks to expire for income over $250,000 annually after Republicans ceased a filibuster.
President Obama campaigned for only ending the tax cuts for wealthier Americans to pay their fair share, but GOP lawmakers argued the bill hurts job creators and small businesses that hire workers.
"It boggles the mind to think that now, during an economic recession, Senate Democrats put forth a plan to raise taxes on nearly a million business owners, farmers, ranchers, and families. Their idea of a tax plan includes damaging tax increases that would severely hurt small businesses and hike the estate tax from 35 percent to 55 percent," said U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., adding no Americans should receive a tax increase.
As observers note, the votes puts pressure on the Republican-controlled House to pass the legislation without extending the tax cuts for wealthier Americans. The Senate has rejected extending the breaks for all income earners, but Speaker John Boehner, R-Oh., says the House will reject the Democratic tax plan.