Senate Tax Battles

Hours after the House approved a plan from Democrats that extends some of the Bush-era tax rates, the battle shifted to the Senate, where Democrats set a pair of test votes for Saturday.

Along with voting on the House-passed tax plan, which would allow taxes to go up on those making more than $200,000/year for an individual and $250,000/year for a family, Democrats also want to force a vote on an amendment that would put that limit at $1 million/year.

The idea - as in the House - is to put Republicans on the record as opposing those plans, and argue that they are nothing more than puppets of the rich.

Once again, those kind of arguments don't seem to have much mojo right now, as Republicans argue that these Democratic efforts are nothing more than political stunts.

House GOP Leader John Boehner went as far as calling them, "Chicken Crap."

"This is nonsense, alright?" an animated Boehner said to reporters at a Capitol news conference.  "The election was one month ago."

In other words, Republicans are not in any way freaked out that the voters will suddenly turn tail on them for sticking by their pledge to avoid new taxes, and to keep tax rates the same.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) laid the parliamentary groundwork for votes late on Thursday night, making the customary threat to keep the Senate working through the weekend if necessary.

Capitol Hill Logic would tell us that the votes will either occur today, or next Monday.  Democrats won't get 60 votes for either of them.

So what happens then?

Actually, the sooner that Democrats fail to overcome GOP objections, that might mean a quicker resolution to this whole issue.
 
Why?  Well, conventional wisdom in the halls of the Capitol is that the White House is basically ready to sign off on a deal that would extend the current tax rates - all of them - for two years.

The only question is what else would be involved in that deal.

Some say a one year extension of long term jobless benefits might be in.  A patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax.  Maybe something on federal estate taxes.  Also there could be language on the "tax extenders", the various business and invididual tax breaks that expired last year, plus other items as well.

In other words, these votes for Democrats allow them to vent some steam, and maybe make it easier for negotiators to come to a final deal.

Just like the House debate, where Republicans were not allowed to offer any amendments or motions, the same kind of restrictive parliamentary situation will exist in the Senate, as Sen. Reid last night "filled the tree" to prevent any amendments from Republicans.

For those of you who have forgotten our blog lessons about the four "amendment trees" in the Senate, it's pretty simple - there are only so many amendments that can be offered - so Reid filled all of those holes, and can now prevent any other amendments from being pushed into the debate.

Just as a filibuster can stop certain items from moving in the Senate, so can "filling the tree."

Whther that's a legitimate use of the rules, or a blatant power grab, it is all in the eye of the beholder, sort of like the debate on tax rates, tax cuts and tax increases.

Hours after the House approved a plan from Democrats that extends some of the Bush-era tax rates, the battle shifted to the Senate, where Democrats set a pair of test votes for Saturday. Along with voting on the House-passed tax plan, which would allow taxes to go up on those ...

About the Author