Reid Punts Vote on Tax Cuts to After Elections

Posted September 23, 2010 at 5:26pm

Updated: 7:09 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office finally announced Thursday night what has appeared plain for days: The chamber will not vote on extending Bush-era tax cuts before the midterm elections.

Instead, Democrats will pursue a new bill that would punish companies that move their operations and jobs overseas, a move intended to show they are focused on jobs and the economy during the current economic uncertainty.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in a statement: “Democrats believe we must permanently extend tax cuts for the middle-class before they expire at the end of the year, and we will. Unfortunately, to this point we have received no cooperation from Republicans to do so. Democrats will not allow families in Nevada and across the country to suffer or be held hostage by Republicans who would rather give tax giveaways to millionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas. We will come back in November and stay in session as long as it takes to get this done.”

Republicans pushed back against the notion that they are to blame for the Senate’s inaction.

“Our economy remains weak and we should act to provide our job creators and small businesses with economic certainty by stopping these tax hikes. I hope they change their mind, because there’s too much at stake,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said in a statement. “Everyone’s tired of the White House blaming previous administrations and the Republican minority for everything. At some point, you just have to take responsibility for your own failings and act to fix them.”

Don Stewart, spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noted that Republicans introduced a bill to extend all of the Bush tax cuts last week. “We hope Democrats, who have yet to actually introduce tax legislation to prevent tax hikes, won’t hold it hostage to their burning desire to raise taxes on small businesses and families in the middle of a recession,” Stewart said.

Democrats have been divided in recent weeks over the political wisdom of voting on their plan to extend the tax breaks only for couples making $250,000 or less ($200,000 for individuals). Republicans have argued that taxes should not be allowed to increase during an economic downturn and have pushed to extend all of the tax cuts, which were enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush.

While liberals were gung-ho to create a clear contrast to Republicans on the vote, some Democratic incumbents who are up for re-election and worried about the party’s prospects in November argued that such a debate would create a no-win situation.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said earlier Thursday that Republicans were never going to vote for the Democratic bill, making a vote before the election pointless.

“The reality is — in this political climate, before the election — we are not going to resolve this issue in a matter of a week or two,” Durbin said. “It will most likely be resolved after the heat of the campaign is decided and cooler heads prevail.”