WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats fired the latest volley in the battle to claim the high ground on tax cuts Tuesday, proposing a plan similar to President Barack Obama's proposal to let the Bush-era tax rates expire at the end of the year for high earners only.
The Senate bill, a one-year plan proposed by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), would maintain the historically low tax rates for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000.
It would also exempt inheritances under $3.5 million from a 45 percent tax rate, patch the alternative minimum tax that captures more of the middle class every year, continue an investment tax break for small businesses, and extend a slew of other breaks for middle-class families.
The proposal adheres closely to Obama's plan, although it keeps capital gains taxes at 15 percent for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000, and raises them to 20 percent above that level.
The bill answers the Republicans' complaint that when Reid offered to hold a vote on such a plan last week, there was no actual legislation written on which to vote. Republicans want to extend all the Bush-era tax cuts, which were extended once in 2009 and are set to expire at the end of 2012.
Their expiration is part of the upcoming "fiscal cliff" that all sides have been warning about.
"[Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell and his Republican colleagues have made it clear that they think extending tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires is more important than tax cuts for the middle class. Yet, at the same time, they talk about the deficit," said Reid in a statement.
He went on to repeat his offer from last week to hold two votes, one on the Republican plan and another on his bill, with the understanding that there would be no filibusters and a simple majority would carry the day.
"I propose that we skip all the procedural rules, all these hurdles, and cut straight to having those votes," Reid said. "That way we could see whose plan has majority support and make sure that middle class taxes don't increase on Jan. 1st."
A number of Democrats have come out in favor of the GOP plan, but Reid's statement suggests he believes he has at least 50 members of his caucus in the fold.
"If Sen. McConnell can come up with 50 votes for his plan, he, I'm sure, would be happy to have the votes, or at least that's the way I look at it," Reid said.
“So my message to my Republican colleagues is this," he added. "If you want to join Democrats to protect the middle class and avoid this fiscal cliff that we hear so much about, all you have to do is say yes, just say yes to voting on our tax cut plan and the Republicans' plan. Surely, you can at least agree that 98 percent of the families in this country shouldn't see their taxes go up."
Republicans did not seem impressed by the latest move. A spokesman for McConnell described Reid's plan as an effort to hike taxes on 1 million small businesses, designed only to give Democrats political cover.
On Monday, Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the head of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee, vowed Democrats would stick to their position and allow all the tax cuts to expire before they would take a GOP deal that they say abandons the middle class.
Murray warned that she would be willing to continue negotiating into 2013, even if taxes went up all around. "[I]f we can't get a good deal –- a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share -– then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013, rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle-class families under the bus," Murray declared at the Brookings Institution.
Republicans said Murray's statements reveal pure partisanship.
"I think it shows the Democrats for the political animals that they are. Is that blunt enough?" said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Capitol Hill Tuesday. "They are willing to throw the entire U.S. economy into another recession just to be able to score some political points."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
John Shadegg Wields A Baby
In this past weekend's health care debate, Arizona Republican John Shadegg bravely opened a new frontier by <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/10/jon-stewart-mocks-use-of_n_351911.html">using a live baby as a visual aid</a> to complain about health care reform. The infant, Maddie, was introduced as Shadegg's grand-daughter, which Shadegg quickly corrected, saying, "I wish this <i>was</i> my granddaughter." I wish most Congresspersons demonstrated Maddie's level of cognitive development, but no!
Alan Grayson Warns We Will All Die Slowly
Florida Democrat Alan Grayson made headlines when he took to the well of the House of Representatives<a href="http://airamerica.com/politics/10-27-2009/grayson/"> to warn that the GOP health care plan</a> was for all of the nation's uninsured to DIE QUICKLY! But not so quick that you miss all of the manufactured suspense as Grayson flipped through his poster boards.
Tom Latham Regifts The Chinese
Iowa Republican Tom Latham hates him some cap and trade. So much that he <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/politics_nation/2009/06/latham_brings_props_to_house_f.html">decided to box up a hard hat</a> with the words "American Jobs" written on it and send it to China, as a gift. How thoughtful! And all we've gotten in return is a mess of poisonous toys.
Peter Roskam's Into Bondage
Illinois Republican Peter Roskam took a look at the health care bill and saw handcuffs. And "not figurative handcuffs," <a href="http://hotair.com/archives/2009/11/09/video-if-obamacare-is-so-good/">Roskam said</a>, "actual criminal penalties." So, you <i>do</i> mean figurative handcuffs? Anyway, it's a good thing David Vitter sits in the U.S. Senate, because he would have probably been a little inappropriately interested in this presentation.
Michele Bachmann Get's Lei'd
Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann made the acquaintance of some hula dancing Teabaggers from Hawaii, and they brought her a lei, which Bachmann herself could obtain at the airport in Hawaii, were it not for the fact that she believes planes cannot fly over water without the use of witchcraft. Anyway, <a href="http://minnesotaindependent.com/49288/bachmann-lei-health-care-steve-israel-holocaust">she told Congress</a>, "I’m reminded that the one who created this lei also created our freedom. Are we so insensible to the high cost our forebearers paid to purchase our freedom?" So, the Hawaiian Bureau of Tourism created our freedom? I guess this is not supposed to make much sense.
Chuck Grassley, Dragon Slayer
<a href="http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-august-4-2009/chuck-grassley-s-debt-and-deficit-dragon">CLASSIC CHUCK GRASSLEY</a> (R-Iowa) here, as the Iowan mixed all the metaphors he had at his disposal to inveigh against health care reform: Sir Lancelot! Dragons! Painful weapons! Golden egg-laying geese! The whole thing was like having a Pear Of Anguish inserted into your brain. Unless, of course, you were Maddie -- John Shadegg's not-granddaughter -- who probably likes the pretty pictures!
Chuck Grassley Saw A Bill Murray Movie
More from Charles Grassley: "We should not legislate in a hasty manner and place ourselves in an infinite loop," says Grassley, apparently <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/anneschroeder/0608/Chuck_Grassley_is_a_Bill_Murray_fan.html">drawing the wrong lesson from Bill Murray's GROUNDHOG DAY</a>, in which said "infinite loop" allowed Bill Murray's character the chance to experience personal growth, so that he was no longer the sort of preening dick who'd waste the time of serious people with comparisons to movies he saw one night on Comedy Central.
Orrin Hatch Hates Robin Hood
Utah Republican Orrin Hatch LOVES HIM some children's tales, too, it seems. Thankfully, he kept his stories straight, <a href="http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/2009/04/orrin-hatch-quotes-from-disneys-robin-hood.html">citing Robin Hood</a> as a way of discussing Obama's infernal plan to redistribute wealth in America. It's not clear that Hatch quite understands who would be the Sheriff of Nottingham in this metaphor. But look, just be thankful Hatch didn't burst into an impromptu performance of Bryan Adams's "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You." Hatch, we remind you, fancies himself to be quite the singer.
Frank Lautenberg Is Sick Of These Star Wars
New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg <a href="http://rawstory.com/exclusives/byrne/lautenberg_judges_star_wars_519">compared then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's threat</a> to eliminate the Senate filibuster to Star Wars' Emperor Palpatine's efforts to destroy galactic freedom, murder the Jedi and crush "terrorism" with the Death Star. Flash forward to today, and suddenly the elimination of the Senate filibuster doesn't seem like such a bad idea, eh, Senate Democrats?
George Voinovich: Prop Master
When it comes to Congressional visual aids, the master of the form is Ohio Republican George Voinovich, who was the Jean-Michel Basquiat of poster-board-based metaphorical imagery. Check out all that elaborate work! The lovingly rendered "Emperor's New Clothes," the detailed Wheel of Fortune, the G4 Channel courting Pac Man nonsense...<a href="http://www.politico.com/click/stories/0911/charting_the_course.html">we're going to miss the senator when he retires</a>. But you know who won't miss him? The poor interns who had to build this crap.