Updated: 4:05 p.m.
The House on Thursday passed a permanent extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class. Democratic leaders are pointing to the vote as an example of their party’s efforts to help working Americans before Republicans take control of the chamber in January.
The bill, which would extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts on income less than $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families, passed 234-188, with the backing of three Republicans and all but 20 Democrats.
The Republicans who voted for the bill were Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.), Ron Paul (Texas) and John Duncan (Tenn.). Several Democrats who hail from wealthier districts as well as a number of Democrats who lost on Nov. 2 were among the defectors.
In a speech prior to the vote, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that the bill had virtually no chance of being enacted. It is clear there are not 60 votes in the Senate to extend just the middle-class tax cuts, but Hoyer said the bill was an important first step and would provide a vehicle for the Senate “to effect consensus policy.”
Democratic leaders blocked all amendments to the bill, including a Republican motion to recommit that likely would have extended the tax cuts for all income brackets. House Republicans have pressed for an across-the-board extension, and a sizable chunk of House Democrats have said they would prefer that approach as well.
Hoyer made the case that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree at least on the middle-class tax cuts and urged lawmakers not to “hold hostage” tax cuts for the middle class just because there was disagreement about whether to extend the tax cuts for higher earners.
Republicans, meanwhile, accused Democrats of political posturing.
“I think what’s happened here today is a charade, and I’m glad it is coming to a close,” incoming Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said at the conclusion of the floor debate.
Earlier in the day, the House narrowly adopted the rule for debate on the bill, with 30 Democrats voting “no.”
Correction: Dec. 2, 2010
The article misstated that Republican Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.), Ron Paul (Texas) and John Duncan (Tenn.) voted against the bill. They voted for it.