Udall again votes against Obama deal on tax cuts, unemployment benefits

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Monday joined eight other Democrats in opposing the extension of Bush-era tax cuts, as the Senate overwhelming moved the measure forward in an 83-15 procedural vote.

“Just over one week ago, the Democratic and Republican chairmen of President Obama’s deficit commission called our national debt a ‘cancer’ that is threatening our country from within. They are right,” Udall said in a release.

“A massive budget deficit and a crippling national debt are perhaps the most difficult challenges our government faces. As Coloradans know, our national security depends on our economic security – and each is threatened by skyrocketing debt and irresponsible budgeting.”

Besides extending tax cuts for middle-class Americans and those making over $250,000 a year, the legislation also would extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans right before the holidays.

Udall says the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires will cost the country an additional $700 billion over the next decade — money that will be added on to the mounting tab owed to China.

“I urge my colleagues of both parties, as well as the President, to coalesce around a solution that makes sense for our economy: pass the middle class tax cuts that everyone agrees will help the economy – and avoid piling onto our national debt with unnecessary tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” Udall said. “Congress should stay working through the holidays to get that done. Hardworking Coloradans – who have been tightening their own budget belts – deserve no less.”

With the Christmas recess and the seating of a new Congress looming, the Senate kicked off what should be a make-or-break week for the prospect of extending unemployment benefits and tax cuts. The vote was on whether to end debate and take the real vote on the bill, which now includes the full compromise reached by President Obama and Republican leaders to extend all of the Bush tax cuts for two years and federal unemployment benefits for one year.

The bill now drops into the lap of the House, which is where the real uncertainty lies. On Thursday the House Democratic Caucus voted to reject that compromise bill, but that was a non-binding vote among Democrats only. If the bill comes to the floor of the House for a full vote, it should be passed by a fairly wide margin.

What the caucus vote does, however, is put pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to refuse to bring the bill up for a floor vote unless changes are made. But with the Senate likely to approve the bill, that should ratchet up the pressure in the other direction as well.

There is another possibility, which is that the Senate passes the bill, the House then passes it with amendments and sends it back to the Senate. But that runs the risk of the Senate not passing the bill with the changes the House made and the whole thing ending in a standoff with no extension at all. That would leave it up to the next Congress to take the matter up.

As The Hill reports, the conventional wisdom in D.C. is that Pelosi will blink on this issue because she has little choice. She knows that if an extension is not passed before the Christmas recess the next Congress — controlled by Republicans — is likely to pass a considerably less generous extension, if one passes at all.

While all this is going on, more than a million Americans have already lost their unemployment benefits since the federal benefits lapsed at the end of November. Hundreds of thousands more will lose them every week until the benefits are restored.

Michigan Messenger’s Ed Brayton contributed to this report.

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