A minority of Senators made clear on Saturday that if the Bush tax cuts cannot be extended for the very richest taxpayers in America, then they will allow the tax cuts to expire for everyone.
Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a bill based on President Obama's tax plan to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for the first $250,000 of income for married couples and the first $200,000 of income for unmarried individuals. The two percent of taxpayers with incomes above $250,000/$200,000 would therefore continue to enjoy part of the Bush tax cuts while the other 98 percent would continue to enjoy all of them.
Throughout months of debate over President Obama's tax plan, lawmakers and reporters often seemed to think that a person making one dollar over the $250,000/$200,000 threshold would lose all of the Bush tax cuts. CTJ's recent report shows this is entirely untrue. For example, it explains that married couples with incomes between $250,000 and $300,000 would only lose 1 percent of the Bush tax cuts, on average, under the Democratic tax plan.
The bill, introduced by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, would also have allowed the estate tax to come back into effect but only at the levels that existed in 2009, with an adjustment for inflation. The bill would also have made permanent expansions in refundable tax credits for low-income families that were included in the economic recovery act enacted last year. Emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, which recently expired, would have been extended for one year under the bill.
Unlike nearly every democratic institution on Earth, the Senate cannot approve anything without a super-majority of three-fifths of the chamber's votes. Democratic leaders were able to muster 53 votes for the tax bill, seven short of the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster.
Voting with the Republicans were Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin). Unlike the others, Feingold made it clear that he voted against because he believed that this bill to extend tax cuts entirely for the first $250,000/$200,000 of income is simply too expensive.
The Senate held a second vote on a proposal introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that was the same plan except that the tax cuts would be made permanent for the first $1 million of income. Republicans and Senator Lieberman voted against this bill also, but were joined by some progressive Democrats who believed that the $1 million threshold was too high.
"A minority of Senators are saying that the chamber must extend tax cuts for the extremely rich, or else low-income and middle-income families will lose their tax cuts, and people who are jobless through no fault of their own will receive no more help," said Bob McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice. "Even a proposal to extend the tax cuts for the first $1 million of income is not enough to satisfy this minority of Senators. Their disregard for working class Americans and their blind loyalty to multi-millionaires would be hard to believe if they were not on full display this weekend."