As The Washington Post notes, “the measure is dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled House”, where leaders are preparing to suggest another plan to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for households at every income level through 2013.
However, the lawmakers name the Senate’s 51-48 vote as a “political breakthrough” that reminds of Democrats’ election-year argument that Republicans are holding tax cuts for the middle class hostage i to maintain breaks worth $160,000 a year to the average millionaire.
“If House Republicans insist on blocking our middle-class tax cuts, that is a debate we are willing to have. That is a debate we welcome,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a speech on the Senate floor.
He went on, adding that for more than a decade, Republicans “have conflated tax cuts for the middle class and tax cuts for the very wealthy. This bill breaks that vice.”
“With the Senate’s vote, the House Republicans are now the only people left in Washington holding hostage the middle-class tax cuts for 98% of Americans and nearly every small business owner,” President Obama said in a statement.
In a rare move leaders have approved the plans with a simple majority vote without requiring the chamber to break a 60-vote procedural barrier that has blocked much of the action in the Senate, reports Politico.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden showed up to preside over the Senate and be available to cast a tie-breaking vote — which was unnecessary.
“The fight that preceded the vote took followed a partisan script, with Senate Democrats accusing Republicans of fighting to maintain the current tax rates for the rich at the expense of the middle class,” the paper says.
“The majority of Americans, including a significant majority of Republicans, agree taxes should remain low for the middle class and the top 2 percent should pay their fair share to reduce the deficit,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.
“As I said, the majority of Republicans agree. The only place there is no agreement is with the Republicans in Congress,” he added.
The GOP is “saying, ‘we’re prepared to add $900 billion to the deficit so the top 2 percent of wage earners can get a tax break,’” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat.
However, Republicans insist that the approved plan will hurt small business that hire workers and that no taxes should be raised in a recovering economy.
“Only [our plan] is aimed at helping the economy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “Only ours is meant to help struggling Americans in the midst of an historic jobs crisis. Theirs is meant to deflect attention from their continued failure to reverse this economic situation.”
After the plan was approved, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a statement in which he singled out the votes that the House will reject the Democratic tax plan.
”The House will vote next week to stop that tax hike, and until the Senate does the same, the threat to our economy remains,” Boehner said.