WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats signaled their tax vote was as much about politics as policy Wednesday by saying it sets them up for November, and even managed to link it to the White House race by invoking Mitt Romney's pet dog Seamus.
The passage of the MIddle Class Tax Cut Act means the Senate has offered legislation that preserves the Bush-era tax rates on income under $250,000 for couples, and $200,000 for individuals. That leaves the decision on how to proceed in the hans of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has steadfastly said the rates must be extended for all, including the top 2 percent of earners.
Since the Senate has acted, Democrats argued that the responsible thing to do was pass their bill, and argue about cuts for the wealthy separately. To not do so would be irresponsible, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) argued, akin to Mitt Romney's infamous family vacation in which he crated the family pet on the roof of the car for a drive to Canada.
Boehner "can either pass this bill which delivers certainty to middle class tax payers... or he can step on the gas, head towards that fiscal cliff and strap the American people -- just like a dog we know -- to the top of his car," Murray said soon after the bill passed.
By "fiscal cliff," she meant the looming automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending required by last summer's debt and budget deals, combined with the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, all of which happens at the end of 2012.
Democrats, by offering "certainty" to the middle class, think Republicans will have a difficult time in the fall if they don't do likewise.
"The president will now wield the power of the bully pulpit," said Sen. Chuck Schumer. "This will be a positive day for November, and more importantly for the future of the middle class."
"We feel pretty confident where we are with our Senate races and our presidential election," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Schumer predicted that with the middle class cuts severed from the top earners, the GOP would have some "serious explaining to do" if they hold out for cuts for all.
"For the first time, we got a majority vote in the Senate to help the middle class with tax breaks without having to tie them to tax breaks for the wealthiest among us," Schumer said. "We have set the debate so that we have the high ground. The rest will all flow from it ... The water will now flow in our direction, not in theirs."
Nevertheless, Republican campaigns quickly answered the vote by blasting out press releases making their case -- that the Democrats would allow taxes to go up on 1 million small businesses.
“Liberal Bill Nelson has never met a tax hike that he didn’t like and once again, standing behind President Obama was more important for Sen. Nelson than standing up for Florida farmers and small business owners,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said in one of many similar statements targeting specific races.
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.