As both parties continued their campaigns to gain the upper hand on taxes by the time real negotiations take place during the post-election lame-duck session, Senate Democrats took the offensive in advance of a vote in their chamber scheduled for today.
Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer took the lead for his party, criticizing a GOP plan that would not extend some middle-class tax benefits from the 2009 stimulus law pushed by President Barack Obama.
The three tax provisions that would not be extended by the Republican offering from Finance ranking member Orrin Hatch (Utah) provide benefits for college students and working-class parents.
“Buried deep inside Sen. Hatch’s proposal are three backbreaking tax hikes on middle-class families,” the New York Democrat said. “Republican taxwriters managed to leave out at least three big tax breaks from the middle class.”
Republicans said the Democratic argument is a canard. Pressed about Schumer’s charge, Minority Whip Jon Kyl responded that the package may not be without fault — but that the underlying message about extending tax rates should prevail.
“Would you then be satisfied to just let everybody in the country have a big tax increase, over $4 trillion over 10 years, because one of the things you wanted was not included?” the Arizona Republican said.
“Now, I’m going to find out why that is not included. But if that is the excuse to vote against a bill, which would keep Americans from having their taxes increased, that does not sound like a very legitimate excuse to me,” Kyl added.
Democrats think they might have a winning issue on the underlying debate about whether to extend the 2001 and 2003 marginal tax rates for individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday started a exchange of verbal barbs by offering his Republican counterparts simple-majority votes to just call up and pass each proposal.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) countered that the Senate should also vote on a tax plan floated by Obama, without ever saying why he opposed Reid’s vote deal.
“The Majority Leader and I are under discussions as to how we proceed to vote on taxes. But we welcome the opportunity to vote on their proposal and think that fundamental fairness would dictate that we get a chance to vote on what we think would be the best way forward for the American economy in this particular situation,” McConnell said.
Questioned about the matter Tuesday afternoon, McConnell said he was still “discussing the threshold” question. Without a deal, the Senate will only hold an initial
cloture vote on calling up Reid’s plan.