Senate Republicans killed two bills Saturday that sought to extend the Bush tax cuts to the middle class while letting the cuts expire for the country’s wealthiest taxpayers. The first bill, passed by the House on Thursday, would have secured tax breaks for American families that make less than $250,000 a year. When that proposal failed to gain GOP support, Democrats raised the bar, proposing to extend the cuts to all Americans who make less than a million dollars a year. Republicans voted unanimously against both proposals. Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet voted for the middle class tax breaks.
Democrats lacked seven votes needed to break the GOP filibuster of the bills. Four Democrats voted with Republicans against the middle class cuts. The New York Times posts a good map of the voting with its story on the debate.
An extension of tax cuts to the lower and middle class brackets alone now appears to be off the table.
Although the turn of events comes as little surprise, some Democrats were aghast at the end of the voting. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill told the Times the debate has become absurd.
“I feel like I am in the twilight zone,” she said. “It’s depressing to me that we have gotten to this level of posturing, that they are saying if you do not give people a tax break on their second million, that nobody gets one.”
Minnesota’s Al Franken gave a floor speech anticipating GOP arguments in favor of extending the millionaire tax breaks. He contrasts their arguments in favor of extending the full tax cuts with their arguments against extending unemployment benefits.
“Now, frankly, I’m a little tired of being lectured by Republicans on the deficit,” he said. “We all know that Bill Clinton inherited the largest deficit in history from George H. W. Bush and then handed George W. Bush the largest surplus in history. And George W. Bush nearly doubled the national debt. He also handed Barack Obama the largest deficit in history. And, of course, my friends on the other side of the aisle controlled the Congress for most of those Bush years.”
Republicans have argued that no taxes should be raised in the recession and that tax breaks for the wealthy create jobs. Evidence is strongly weighted against the argument that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy created or can create jobs.
Democrats have argued that the tax cuts were never meant to be permanent and that’s because at the time they were passed most analysts knew they would be disastrous in raising the budget deficit, that they would slash revenue while providing no services to the overwhelming majority of Americans. With the cuts in place, wealthy Americans pay lower tax rates than everyone else.