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Senate Democrats plan to try to pin any failure to extend tax relief for families making less than $250,000 a year on House Republicans, after the Senate passed such a bill Wednesday.
But as they did with a popular domestic violence prevention measure, GOP lawmakers are dismissing the Democratic bill because it runs afoul of the Constitution, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tried to fix the problem.
The Senate passed Reid’s bill, 51-48, after reaching a deal to allow simple majority votes for both Republican and Democratic plans to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush.
The GOP plan would extend all of the expiring tax rates for one year and provide relief from some other tax provisions, as well as establish an expedited process for a tax code overhaul next year.
Retiring Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) voted against both plans.
Lieberman wants to take broader action on the federal debt now.
“Just imposing across-the-board tax increases for individuals and small businesses that make over $250,000 a year is neither tax reform nor the balanced deficit-reduction agreement our country needs right now,” he said.
Senators turned back the Republican plan to extend all the tax relief by a vote of 45-54. Republicans plan to use the votes against vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election, including Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.).
Simple majority votes have become a rarity, with cloture motions or complex agreements frequently requiring support of 60 Senators to get bills passed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said his Conference only allowed the Democratic-favored tax bill to sail through the Senate because it was sure to die in the House, thanks to the Constitution’s “Origination Clause,” which requires revenue measures to start in the House.
“The only reason we won’t block it today is that we know it doesn’t pass constitutional muster and won’t become law. If the Democrats were serious, they’d proceed to a House-originated revenue bill as the Constitution requires,” the Kentucky Republican said.
In a bid to resolve that issue, Reid tried to get Republicans to allow him to insert the language of the Senate legislation into a House-passed tax bill. Doing so, however, could put House Republicans in a more difficult position. The procedural issue gives House leadership a good excuse to ignore the measure or return it to the Senate without action.