Senate moves forward with Bush-era tax rate extension

Chris Moody Contributor
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The proposal to extend the Bush-era tax rates will proceed.

The Senate reached the 60 votes needed to move forward with President Obama’s $858 billion plan to extend the current income tax rates Monday afternoon. It ultimately passed 83-15.

The measure would extend the Bush-era tax rates for two years in return for a 13-month extension of federal unemployment benefits. The package also will set the estate tax rate at 35 percent for assets beyond $5 million.

Five Republicans, nine Democrats and one independent have cast dissenting votes, including Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spent more than eight hours on the Senate floor last Friday railing against the deal. Nevada Sen. John Ensign, who joined Republicans Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio to vote against cloture, has said he opposes the measure because the unemployment benefits in the package are not paid for.

A slate of liberal Democrats who have staunchly supported a tax increase for the wealthy also supported the vote to move toward final passage. New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Michigan Sen. Deborah Stabenow and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, all fierce opponents of the Bush tax rates, cast a “yea” vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid chose to leave the vote open for several hours instead of the traditional 15 minutes to give some senators who had been held up in their districts due to bad weather a chance to cast their vote. This is the first step toward a final vote on the measure, which is expected within the next few days.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Monday that the House will take up the measure as soon as the Senate passes its own version, but did not rule out the possibility that the proposal would be changed. A majority of House Democrats have voiced concern with the proposal, citing the estate tax rate as a particular sticking point.

In a speech Monday, Obama praised the Senate vote and urged reluctant House members to embrace the compromise.

“I recognize that folks on both sides of the political spectrum are unhappy with certain parts of the package, and I understand those concerns. I share some of them,” Obama said. “But that’s the nature of compromise — sacrificing something that each of us cares about to move forward on what matters to all of us. Right now, that’s growing the economy and creating jobs. And nearly every economist agrees that that is what this package will do.”

A Pew Foundation survey released Monday showed that a wide majority of both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats support the compromise deal.

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