Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to schedule two votes on Saturday on Democratic plans to end Bush-era tax breaks for the nation’s highest income earners.
One plan sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would extend current tax rates only for families that earn less than $250,000. The second plan offered by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would extend tax rates only for families that earn less than $1 million.
Both Democratic tax proposals are expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to quash GOP filibusters. It's unclear, however, how many Republicans will show up to vote. They only need one representative present in the chamber to filibuster legislation.
So unless Republicans' resolve erodes overnight -- literally -- tomorrow's votes will be pure political theater. Democrats will ratchet up their class warfare demagoguery about Republican "tax cuts for the rich" (even though Republicans are merely calling for an extension of all current tax rates), and they'll position themselves as champions of the middle class by by fighting to maintain their lower, Bush-imposed rates (which, for years, Democrats pretended didn't exist).
The Hill reports that a lone, unnamed GOP Senator blocked an agreed-upon compromise by objecting to an unanimous consent request:
Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had reached a tentative teal to hold votes on four other tax proposals on Friday.
The initial plan was to vote on the extension of tax rates for families earning under $250,000 and the extension of rates for those making less than $1 million — the Baucus and Schumer proposals. Under the tentative agreement, Republicans would have gotten to vote on a permanent extension of all of the Bush tax cuts and a five-year extension of all the tax rates.
That deal, however, fell apart late Thursday evening after an anonymous Republican senator objected to a request for unanimous consent, forcing the Saturday votes.
The scuttled compromise would have at least allowed public votes on two GOP-backed tax proposals. It's unclear whether the lone Republican's objection was connected to another related deal, which involves the extension of two tax credits embedded in last year's "stimulus" bill. A GOP source estimated those two extensions alone would cost approximately $70 Billion.
This tax battle comes down to good economics vs. good politics. Democrats believe -- perhaps with good reason -- that they can score political points by denying "tax cuts" to "the rich," while painting Republicans as the party of millionaires. Chuck Schumer's alternative proposal was explicitly designed to deliver maximum grandstanding potential; he enlisted focus groups to arrive at his $1 Million threshold. This approach has nothing to do with economics. It has everything to do with politics.
Republicans, however, oppose raising anyone's taxes during a recession, including "the rich" -- a category that boasts hundreds of thousands of small business owners. You know, the folks who drive our economy and employ people. You'd think Democrats might at least feign interest in that second bit, especially in light of today's discouraging unemployment news. Then again, they're the party that believes extending unemployment benefits is a more effective job creator than lightening the tax burden on job creators.
The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney poses the question of the hour: "Which is more amazing: That liberals are willing to hike taxes on small businesses during 9.8% unemployment, or the passion they feel for it?" Brace yourselves for nuclear class warfare on the Senate floor tomorrow. Thank God for college football.
UPDATE - The insane "debate" is officially underway:
UPDATE II - Here is Mendendez's full quote, in all its ludicrously hyperbolic glory:
Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) on tax cuts debate: "It’s almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists."
“Do you allow yourself to be held hostage and get something done for the sake of getting something done, when in fact it might be perverse in its ultimate results? It’s almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists,” Menendez said when asked whether he and other Democrats would accept a compromise with Republicans.
UPDATE III - The Roll Call article linked above highlights even more nuttiness from Senate Democrats. Sen. Claire McCaskill warns that if the GOP wins this tax debate, “it really is time to take up pitchforks.” Where are the Lefty civility police when you need them?
Also, Sen. Chuck Schumer got so caught up in his feverish opposition to maintaining existing tax rates for all Americans, he accidentally wandered off script while railing against Republicans. How far off script? This far:
Voters “did say ‘repeal health care,’ they did say ‘reduce the size of government.’ But not a single one of them from the tea party or anywhere said ‘give tax breaks to the wealthiest,’” Schumer said in a rare moment of candor.
Now there's a deal Mitch McConnell should consider. Republicans "listen to voters" by caving on Schumer's dopey "millionaires" tax ploy in exchange for Democrats -- led by Chucky himself -- honoring the will of the people by repealing Obamacare. Let's get that in writing, stat.
UPDATE IV - Video from ABC News of Menendez's wildly inappropriate invective: