Sherrod Brown has come out in support of the tax cut legislation which will get a final vote this afternoon. He was one of the only 15 to vote against cloture on the bill on Monday. Basically, you’re going to get a near-unanimous majority in the Senate when final passage comes later today.

The House is not putting up much more of a fight. Peter Welch, who led the opposition in the Democratic caucus, appeared to throw in the towel yesterday.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who just a week ago circulated a letter signed by 54 Democrats urging opposition to the deal, now says the “die is cast.”

“It is academic, OK. The bottom line is that it is a fast moving train and that has become clear and Washington is doing what it is finding easy to do,” he said in an interview with The Hill.

“Once the president entered into that agreement with the Senate Republicans even while talks with the House were supposedly under way, that set the tone for the weekend and now you got Americans excited about a trillion dollars that is going to be in effect given away,” Welch said.

I don’t read this as Welch being particularly happy about the matter, but resigned to it. At a Democratic caucus meeting last night, the House leadership basically signaled that they would pass the bill with few changes.

There’s been a lot of talk that House Democrats would hold out for changes on the estate tax, rolling it back to 2009 levels (with a $3.5 million exemption and a 45% rate) rather than the $5 million exemption and 35% rate in the bill. It’s worth noting that the 2009 rates were the lowest in recent US history to that point. Leaders who have been the loudest on this bill still SOUND like they’re going to fight it out: Chris Van Hollen has an op-ed this morning in the WaPo about it. But in reality, this looks more like a message vote, one that will probably fail. Senate Republicans would almost certainly take down the whole deal to preserve this monstrous giveaway to the super-rich, and there’s a lot of forward momentum in Washington to get the deal done. Jim Clyburn wouldn’t even say that he would whip a vote to roll back the estate tax part of the deal.

Another option would have the length of the tax cut extension and the unemployment insurance extension made equal. David Wu (D-OR) suggested that one. But he’s as resigned to this endgame as anyone else, and lashing out at the White House for it:

“This administration thus far has fought nothing, they have shown no fight, no evidence of a future fight, and what they are going to get is two years of hell from the Republican majority,” Wu told a handful of reporters after the caucus meeting.

Wu wants to amend the bill when it reaches the House and send it back to the Senate with his changes included. Confronted with the fact that his leadership seems unwilling to help him affect those changes, Wu demurred.

“I wouldn’t want to judge this from a leadership perspective,” he said. “I think that would be unwise on their part.”

Brad Sherman has an idea that would change the payroll tax cut to a rebate to all taxpayers for the same portion of payroll taxes from 2010, rather than a going-forward cut. That’s going nowhere either.

As for fixing the real inequities in the bill, like making up the difference so the 50 million working poor, individuals making less than $20,000 a year or households making less than $40,000, don’t see an effective tax increase next year? That’s not even on the table. It’s the same game – get passed whatever’s most likely to pass the Senate.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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