By a 51-48 vote, the U.S. Senate voted to extend the Bush tax cuts on income under $250,000. The Senate also rejected a Republican-backed plan to extend all Bush tax cuts, including those on the wealthy, by a 45-54 margin.
While the vote was mostly symbolic, it showed that a majority of senators support ending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The vote also strengthens the hand of Democrats as they begin negotiation with the Republican-led House over the extension of the tax cuts.
The Obama administration praised the vote. “All sides agree on the need to extend the tax cuts for the middle class,” the administration said in a statement. “[T]his legislation reflects that consensus, and should not be held hostage while debating the merits of another tax cut for the wealthy.
The vote came after Senate Republicans dropped their plan to filibuster the bill, and agreed to allow the bill to come to a vote.
The Bush Tax Cuts were passed in 2001. Due to procedural hurdles, they were originally set to expire at the end of 2010. The Obama Administration agreed to extend the cuts for two years, in exchange for Republicans agreeing to end a filibuster and allow votes on ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and on extending unemployment insurance.
While the Republican-led House has been at odds with President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Senate, both parties will have incentive to work together. If no action is taken, all the Bush era cuts will expire at the end of the year.
All Republicans voted against the Democratic tax plan, while Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Jim Webb, D-Va., voted against it. Only one Democrat — Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. — voted for the Republican plan, while Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted against it.
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