Republicans united in the Senate to block a $3.2 trillion dollar tax cut today, stopping consideration of an extension of tax rates for every worker in America on the first $250,000 of income. The final vote on the motion to proceed was 53-36. All Republicans, at least the ones who showed up, voted against the tax cut. So did Russ Feingold, Jim Webb and Joe Manchin, Joe Lieberman, and maybe more (will get a roll call when it’s up). I’m guessing Feingold just wants all the tax rates to expire; that would fit with his posture as a deficit hawk.
UPDATE: Roll Call. The five Democratic no’s on the $250K plan were Feingold, Webb, Manchin, Ben Nelson and Lieberman. But Nelson, Webb and Manchin flipped to yes on the $1M plan. I noticed Harkin and Durbin flipped to no, but there had to be one more. Will update… it was Jay Rockefeller. So for Harkin, Durbin and Rockefeller, the millionaire’s bracket is a bridge too far.
Democrats are also holding a cloture vote today on Chuck Schumer’s plan, adding a millionaire’s bracket and extending tax rates for everyone on the first $1 million of annual income. That would be a roughly $3.6 trillion dollar tax cut over ten years. Webb and Manchin have offered support for that in the past, but there won’t be enough votes to move that forward. UPDATE: That plan falls, 53-37, with Webb and Manchin voting in the affirmative, but Harkin and Durbin voting no, among others.
Meanwhile, at the White House, the team of Tim Geithner and Jack Lew continue to work on some manner of “compromise” on the issue, whereby all the Bush-era tax rates get extended for 2-3 years. If nothing gets done, John Boehner has vowed to vote immediately on an extension of all the tax cuts when he becomes speaker in January. That’s why it would have been good to see how the Senate would have handled a vote on that today, which was the plan. But Jim DeMint basically blew up the unanimous consent agreement for multiple votes on the Republican plans, so instead there were cloture votes today. Democrats will still control the Senate in January, but it’s unclear whether they would have 40 votes to block all the tax cuts from being extended. Probably not, I’d gather. But rank-and-file Democrats are staking out a slightly more aggressive position on the tax cuts lately, arguing that they cannot afford to “let this opportunity slip away” on a definitional issue for the party.
Majority Leader Reid also outlined the rest of the session in remarks after the defeat of the first vote today. On Tuesday, Senators will work on the impeachment of Thomas Porteous, a federal judge impeached in the House for accepting kickbacks. They expect that impeachment trial to be completed Wednesday. Reid lined up four cloture votes on Wednesday – on the 9/11 health bill, a bill allowing collective bargaining for firefighters, the DREAM Act, and the $250 one-time benefit for Social Security recipients who saw no cost-of-living adjustment this year. “We hope there are arrangements made on the tax issue by then,” Reid said. He also stressed the need to figure out spending bills for the rest of the year; Congress passed a 15-day continuing resolution to fund the government, which expires December 18.
Reid hoped there would be time to hold a vote on the START treaty and the defense authorization bill as well, though he wants to complete work in the Senate (and the 111th Congress) in two weeks, on December 17th. The key would be to get time agreements on amendments on the defense bill, which includes the legislative repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.