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Senate Democrats Are Defiant After Tax Vote Losses

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Sen. Charles Schumer and other Democrats are emerging from Saturday’s tax-cut votes energized, despite losing the votes.

Senate Democrats remained defiant Saturday after Republicans easily defeated their middle-class tax-cut proposals and said they would simply allow all of the Bush-era tax cuts to expire if the GOP does not relent.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) forced the unusual Saturday votes after negotiations broke off with Republicans to conduct a string of votes on GOP and Democratic proposals for extending the tax cuts. As expected, Democrats couldn’t come close to generating 60 votes for plans that would have advanced the tax cuts only for families with incomes up to $250,000 and then up to $1 million.

Saturday’s politically minded votes on two middle-class tax-cut extensions were intended to be something of a cathartic moment for Democrats. Leaders hoped the votes, which never had a chance of succeeding, would allow their members to blow off partisan steam before accepting a short-term deal to extend all of the cuts.

But Democrats emerged from the votes at least appearing to be more energized than when they went in.

“We are going to continue this fight until we achieve our goal, a permanent extension of tax cuts for the middle class and no tax cuts” for the wealthy, Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said following the vote.

When asked whether his Conference would allow the cuts to lapse, rather than give in to GOP demands that the wealthy also have their tax cuts extended, Schumer declined to predict an outcome. But he made clear that strategy has support.

“There’s lots of people in our caucus who have that appetite,” Schumer said.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of the most vocal critics of the GOP’s opposition to a middle-class-only strategy, called the fight “the ultimate game of chicken” and warned there is a possibility of all the tax cuts expiring and the fight dragging on into January.

“I think it’s a possibility if they’re really going to say, ‘We’re going to deny tax cuts to 99.9 percent of America, [so we can give tax breaks to] folks that have two homes and a yacht?’ I think they’re in a dangerous position, they’re in a very dangerous position. ... So, we’ll see,” she said.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) went so far as to call for a veto of anything beyond a middle-class-only bill by President Barack Obama, who has all but formally agreed to the GOP’s demands for a short-term extension of the tax cuts.

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