To the surprise of absolutely no one, Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the Buffett rule last night with a filibuster. The bill would have set a millionaire’s minimum effective tax rate at 30%, with a phase-in between $1 million and $2 million and an exemption for charitable donations. But Senate Republicans wouldn’t let it get onto the floor for debate.
I am pretty proud of myself that I called Susan Collins as the only Republican who would vote for the bill. Mark Pryor was the only Democrat to vote against it. Joe Lieberman passive-aggressively did not make it back to Washington for the vote, but said in a statement that he would have voted no on the bill. Daniel Akaka didn’t make it back from Hawaii, but presumably he would have been a yes. Here’s the roll call.
Yesterday on a conference call, Chuck Schumer said this would not be the end for the Buffett rule, and that Senate Democrats would pursue it all year long. And I believe him, because it has become bound up with the Presidential election. Here’s President Obama’s statement on the vote:
Tonight, Senate Republicans voted to block the Buffett Rule, choosing once again to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest few Americans at the expense of the middle class.
The Buffett Rule is common sense. At a time when we have significant deficits to close and serious investments to make to strengthen our economy, we simply cannot afford to keep spending money on tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and didn’t ask for. But it’s also about basic fairness – it’s just plain wrong that millions of middle-class Americans pay a higher share of their income in taxes than some millionaires and billionaires. America prospers when we’re all in it together and everyone has the opportunity to succeed.
One of the fundamental challenges of our time is building an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. And I will continue to push Congress to take steps to not only restore economic security for the middle class and those trying to reach the middle class, but also to create an economy that’s built to last.
So it’s much more than just another filibuster. It has resonance as a principle for the election. That’s especially true because of Mitt Romney benefiting from the rule, given his low tax rate (although it should be noted that Obama, who made less than $1 million last year, also paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, and still would if the Buffett rule applied to him, because most of his deductions came from charity).
The debate on taxes will continue, and with the Buffett rule polling very high, Democrats are sure to keep pushing it, drawing out the contrast with Republicans when it comes to taxes on the very rich.