Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 2, 2010

HOUSE DEMOCRATS APPROVE MIDDLE-CLASS TAX CUT.... It took some awkward maneuvering, but House Democrats voted today to approve the tax-cut plan they've wanted all along.

The House on Thursday passed a permanent extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class. Democratic leaders are pointing to the vote as an example of their party's efforts to help working Americans before Republicans take control of the chamber in January.

The bill, which would extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts on income less than $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families, passed 234-188, with the backing of three Republicans and all but 20 Democrats.

The Republicans who opposed the bill were Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.), Ron Paul (Texas) and John Duncan (Tenn.). Several Democrats who hail from wealthier districts as well as a number of Democrats who lost on Nov. 2 were among the defectors.

Some of those Blue Dogs who voted with Republicans already lost their re-election bids. They could have voted for the middle-class-first policy, but bucked their party anyway.

Regardless, it's heartening to see the House do the right thing, even if everyone seems to fully realize that this proposal won't pass the Senate. If the upper chamber still operated on majority rule -- the way it used to work; the way it was designed to work -- the debate would be incredibly easy. But since the Dems' popular and reasonable tax-plan compromise can't overcome a Republican filibuster, the tactical maneuvering will continue.

Regardless, there are now 168 House Republicans on the record on this issue -- they were willing to kill breaks for the middle class because it wasn't generous enough to the wealthiest people in the country.

What's less heartening is the bizarre and arguably inexcusable error of timing. House Dems could have held this vote in September, positioning the party as champions of the middle class, and putting Republicans in an awkward spot shortly before the midterm elections. For reasons I still can't understand, they chose not to.

So, what happens now? Pretty much everyone on the Hill seems to expect some sort of deal that allows a temporary extension of all Bush-era rates. The question remains as to what Dems can/will get in exchange.

Update: Here's the roll call, if you're interested. The more Dems try to hit the airwaves tonight, declaring, accurately, that 98% of the Republicans in the House tried to kill tax cuts for the middle class -- becuase the cuts weren't generous enough to the rich -- the better off they'll be.

Steve Benen 4:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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Comments

You mean Republicans who SUPPORTED the bill....

Posted by: chopin on December 2, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

of course the roll call articles refers to the 3 Rs who opposed the bill. You know the 3 who voted FOR it.

Posted by: Duane on December 2, 2010 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

It COULD pass the Senate if the Dems played hardball- i.e. it's this bill or nothing. And noting would be more than fine with me.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 2, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

House Dems could have held this vote in September, positioning the party as champions of the middle class, and putting Republicans in an awkward spot shortly before the midterm elections. For reasons I still can't understand, they chose not to.

The conservative Dems feared a round of ads painting them as having raised taxes by $700 billion (or something) because they voted to "raise the taxes" of wealthy people. Because their constituents don't trust "Democrats" on taxes, they thought the charge would stick, and they would lose, as Republicans claimed that all they wanted was for "everyone" to get a tax cut.

If conservative Dems thought they could win an argument over taxes in the way you delineate -- we want tax cuts for dollars $1-$250K, the other guys want special tax cuts for dollars $250K+1 to infinity -- they would have played it your way. But they didn't think they could win that argument, so they didn't pursue it.

Also, Senate Democrats -- as Bob Somerby has pointed out, even some generally considered "liberal" -- don't seem to have been too keen on holding that vote before the election either. Many Democratic politicians don't like to put themselves on the line doing things that can be deemed "raising taxes."

Basically, Republicans seem pretty confident that there's nothing "awkward" about how they'll look opposing these things. If they were worried about looking awkward, they probably wouldn't have blocked funding to compensate 9/11 first responders for illness.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on December 2, 2010 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

"For reasons I still can't understand" you can't? really? Let me help-if they did it before the election, the Media might have said "Dems play politics with your tax cut" or "Dems against tax cut" or "Dems raise middle class taxes" -----oh wait..the GOP Media said all of those things anyway and you'll probably see the same thing in the headlines tomorrow.
As for what the Dems will get in exchange - that's easy: They will get the full Bush Tax Cut extended permanently -for all wage classes. And the Media will say "GOP saves tax cuts".

Posted by: T2 on December 2, 2010 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Harry has a procedural gambit up his sleeve as well.

Hey, a fourlegger can hope, eh?

Put me in the "furious that they didn't do this before the election" camp as well. Criminal stupidity in my opinion.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on December 2, 2010 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Tax rates are one thing, tax exemptions are another.

What gets lost in all the noise is the fact that many wiggle out of paying their fair share, regardless of what their "rate" is.

A flat income tax is technically the only solution. If everyone paid 10%, regardless of income, I bet the revenue going into the treasury would be higher than it is today.

I need someone to prove me wrong.

No deductions, nada, just a plain old simple 10%.

The tax laws are absurd and too rife with cheating as it is,

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 2, 2010 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Senate Democrats could get some leverage back if they brought this bill up for a vote...if it doesn't make it to the floor, so be it - at least there will a record of those who voted against it.

And if it does make it to the floor, and passes, (a lot of ifs, but one can still wish) say to the Republicans: OK, we'll give you a chance to bring up tax cuts for the rich, but it'll be the last item on the agenda for the year. So, if you filibuster START, or the DREAM Act, or DADT, we'll run out of time and won't be able to bring it up. Your move.

Posted by: delNorte on December 2, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a legalistic question: Suppose that the Senate passes a bill that temporarily extends all tax cuts. Then the Senate and House bills would have to be reconciled, which for budgetary items can be done with a simple majority in the Senate (as opposed to a filibuster-proof majority). So in reconciliation, couldn't the Senate just adopt the House bill in total?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on December 2, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, if a deal is cut to extend the top end tax cuts for a few years, that would bring us to Jan 1, 2013. If the Dems can show some GOP-like solidarity over the next two years, and beat the drums constantly about how the tax cuts don't create jobs and are adding to the deficit, it may turn out to be their ace in the hole for the 2012 election.

Posted by: bradgalt on December 2, 2010 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Tom,

A flat income tax is technically the only solution. If everyone paid 10%, regardless of income, I bet the revenue going into the treasury would be higher than it is today.

I need someone to prove me wrong.

Gladly.

Even the originators of the misleadingly termed "Flat Tax", Professors Robert Hall and Alvin Rabushka, freely admitted in the 1983 edition of their book, that a 'Flat Tax' will be "a tremendous boon to the economic elite from the start." In an appendix to their book, Hall and Rabushka estimated that their flat tax proposal would increase the tax bill for the lowest income families by 78 percent, and decrease the tax bill for the very richest families by 41 percent.

A consumption tax, wether you call it a Flat Tax, Fair Tax, National Sales Tax, or VAT tax, would be the WORST system to switch to, as even with exemptions for food, medical care, drugs, and housing, and calculating ALL the rebates or prebates, the Middle-class would pay almost 3 times more of their income, proportionally, as the wealthy, and the poor would pay 5 times more of their income, proportionally, as the wealthy.

Shifting the tax burden from the Rich & Corporate to the Middle-class and Working Poor, has not, does not, and never will, work economically.


Posted by: Joe Friday on December 2, 2010 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

delNorte,

What you propose is what a Majority Leader with balls would do. What could possibly make you think Harry has balls?

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 2, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with political messaging on anything like tax cuts is that Republicans have a megaphone (Fox News) and Democrats have 1) no concise, coherent message, and 2) no soap box from which to deliver the message over and over ...

Republicans don't need to worry about looking foolish as long as they have an effective media strategy. And if the heat gets turned up, then can generate up some faux controversy in an instant to pull our eyes away.

Posted by: jb on December 2, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

So in reconciliation, couldn't the Senate just adopt the House bill in total?
Posted by: Daryl McCullough

As i recall from the healthcare debate, reconciliation can only be used if the effect is to reduce the deficit, Only Republicans, when convenient, and not the CBO (who determines) could ever believe tax cuts reduce deficits.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on December 2, 2010 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

Call their fillibuster bluff! Do it! For once show some strength!!!

Posted by: Rachel on December 2, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

...about Harry Reid (I can't vouch for his testicular integrity - you'll have to ask TSA about that):

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said Thursday he could bring up House legislation to extend the Bush-era middle-class tax cuts in the Senate.

"I have to see it what it is first, but the answer is, yes, I could bring it up," Reid said, speaking to reporters at the end of a nearly three-hour meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus.

Reid's answer could mean one of several things. He could use the House legislation simply as an empty shell to which a Senate version of a tax-cut extension bill could be added, as revenue-deriving bills must originate in the House.

The majority leader could allow a vote on the middle-class-only extension in order to mollify liberals in his caucus, before a vote on a compromise agreement with Republicans is held.

Or, if negotiations with Republicans break down, the middle-class tax-cut extension bill could be the only legislation that is brought to the Senate floor by Democrats.

Posted by: delNorte on December 2, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

What's less heartening is the bizarre and arguably inexcusable error of timing. House Dems could have held this vote in September, positioning the party as champions of the middle class, and putting Republicans in an awkward spot shortly before the midterm elections. For reasons I still can't understand, they chose not to.

Steve,

Here's why they chose not to:

http://www.propublica.org/article/new-democrat-coalition

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on December 2, 2010 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

About time...


The Republicans destroyed the middle class... By anti-union activity and tax cuts for the wealthy. They promoted the LIE of trickle down economics.  IT is time the rich pay their fair share.

HERE's the message:  Republicans destroyed the middle class... By lax regulation, anti-union activity and tax cuts for the wealthy.  It is time the rich pay their fair share 

Arizona is a perfect example of this.. Last or close to last in education spending for the past generation, it now has almost the highest rate of poverty in the nation.

Republicans destroyed the middle class... By defunding education, lax regulation, anti-union activity and tax cuts for the wealthy.  It is time the rich pay their fair share. IT is time America stops pandering to the upper classes. 

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on December 2, 2010 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Predeiction as to the number of Democrats who hit the airwaves tonight declaring, accurately, that 98% of the Republicans in the House tried to kill the bill because it didn't give generous enough cuts for the rich. Two on the outside. Both of them will be on MSNBC.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 2, 2010 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

“I need someone to prove me wrong.”

There is absolutely nothing about having different brackets, i.e., different rates of taxation on income at different levels that requires a system of deductions, complex or otherwise, and nothing about taxing all income at a single rate, i.e., in effect creating one bracket, that excludes a system of deductions (though, I think, most flat tax proposals also incorporate this feature).

Posted by: Jvallen on December 2, 2010 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Some of those Blue Dogs who voted with Republicans already lost their re-election bids. They could have voted for the middle-class-first policy, but bucked their party anyway.

A "Blue Dog" is just a fancy name for a Republican corporate whore who dropped the pretense about giving lip service to culture war issues. Or more accurately, a corporate whore who infiltrated Democratic ranks to guarantee no matter which party has the upper hand on culture issues, the oligarchy still has its bitches to do its bidding.

Posted by: AndThenThere'sThat on December 2, 2010 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Harry Reid should agree to conduct two votes, in order: first, a vote on the House bill, and then, if the House bill doesn't pass, a vote to extend the tax cuts to all. The second vote would not occur until the first vote does.

That way, if the Republicans block the first bill, they never get the bill they want. They have to filibuster the tax cut, and the result will be that taxes go up for all on Jan 1 because of Republican action.

Posted by: Joe Buck on December 2, 2010 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Just like Harry Reid did before the Health care bill prolonging this legislation hurt the dems at election time and was just stupidly unnecessary. Reid's mistake gave rise to the tea party madness.

Maybe here is not enough time in the lame duck session but seems senate dems still hold a majority and could pass tax cuts for the middle class via the reconciliation process since that is the only way Bush could get his tax cuts through to begin with...SO THE DEMS DON'T NEED TO COMPROMISE on this issue.

Tax cuts for the middle class only via reconciliation (senate repubs can't even bitch about using this process since that is exactly how they got tax cuts for the wealthy passed.)

Greedy bastards...it's only a 3% increase. They paid 90% under Ike and 70% until Reagan.

"Job creators" don't pay taxes on jobs created since they get a tax break for investments into their own companies so the tax increase only affects money they spend on themselves...doesn't affect "job creations" one bit. Pure lying propaganda from heartless greedy bastards known as the GOP Paliens and Ging-Grinch.

Posted by: bjobotts on December 2, 2010 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

"The question remains as to what the Democrats can/will get in exchange"

The Democrats will get a sh*t sandwich shoved down their throat and they'll be told that it's Fillet Mignon. The sad part is that they'll probably believe it.

Posted by: DK on December 2, 2010 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

@DK - is exactly right.

At this point, the Dems are either hopelessly incompetent - or they actually don't want to move away from trickle down economics.

Why, when they do nothing but symbolic gestures, would one believe they want to change from that?

To look at their record rather than their words, I'd say they are essentially Reagan-esque with their persistence of voodoo economics...

Posted by: Jackifus on December 2, 2010 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

I read where the President has surrendered to the Republicans. A president's reelection chances are only so good as the people who have his back. Who will have his back after his base walks away in disgust?

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 3, 2010 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

Budgeting advice for people clearing $15,000 a month (rough approximation):
$5,000 -- house and utilities
$5,000 -- all consumables
$4,850 -- everything else
$150 -- extra taxes

Posted by: mjm on December 3, 2010 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

It looks like Obama is an immaculately-tailored, "light Egyptian" Hymie-the-robot mannequin who recites King-like speeches when absolutely necessary and can do fuckall else.

How uninspiring.

Posted by: Squeaky McCinkle on December 3, 2010 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

Having lost their elections, the Blue Dogs were free to focus on what really matters them: increasing their take-home pay in their next career, as rich corporate lobbyists.

Posted by: Basilisc on December 3, 2010 at 3:52 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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