Senate poised to vote on Bush tax cuts Wednesday

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - 10:48am

The Senate is poised to cast votes Wednesday on competing Democratic and Republican plans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year.

While neither proposal is expected to pass, each represents what amounts to an opening bid for what is sure to be a frenzied negotiating session after the election as the economy nears the so-called "fiscal cliff."

The Senate Democrats' bill would extend the tax cuts just on incomes under $250,000 for a couple and $200,000 for an individual. That's in keeping with their pledge to preserve the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, not the wealthy.

Republicans want to extend the tax cuts for all taxpayers, arguing any tax hikes while the economy is still weak would make a recovery more difficult.

On Tuesday, Senate leaders jockeyed over procedure, and late in the day it wasn't clear which proposals would get votes.

Democratic leaders were confident that if Republicans would drop their filibuster, which is currently stalling action on the measure, the Democratic bill could get at least 51 votes. They doubted the Republicans could do as well on their bill.

Republicans "know a majority of senators and a majority of Americans support our plan to help middle class families," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor. "Our plan gives 98 percent of American families certainty their taxes won't go up and it reduces the deficit by almost $1 trillion by ending wasteful tax breaks for the rich."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his party wants votes on three measures. One on the Democratic bill, one on the Republican bill, and one on a proposal by President Barack Obama that some Senate Democrats oppose because of the rates on estate taxes and taxes on dividends. Republicans signaled a split by the Democrats could hurt the president politically.

"We think we should have a vote on all three proposals tomorrow," McConnell said. "Show the American people what's really behind these proposals and what we stand for. If Democrats believe the president's rhetoric, they'll vote for his proposal. And he'll work to get their support."

Republicans threatened to continue their filibuster and deny votes on the Democratic and GOP bills if they didn't also get a vote on the president's proposal.

Also Tuesday, Democrats railed against Republicans for wanting to extend tax cuts for the wealthy while at the same time not including three expiring tax credits for many middle and lower income families that both the president and Senate Democrats included in their bills.

The tax credits, which were approved as part of the 2009 economic stimulus law that most Republicans opposed, include credits for college tuition costs, and expanded versions of the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit.

"This idea that they don't want to raise taxes on anyone," complained Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York. "They're okay raising taxes on many middle class people as long as they get their tax breaks for the very wealthiest among us. That's an amazing and astounding point."

Asked about a decision to leave out the tax credits, Senate Republican Leader McConnell said he couldn't answer because he had just found out about the omission and Sen. Jon Kyl, the number two Republican, said he would have to find out why.

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