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Senate Tax Votes Happening Now

The Senate voted down the Republican tax cut plan, which was an amendment to the Democratic plan. As noted earlier, the Republican plan would have simply extended all the Bush tax cuts for one year, while the Democratic plan would only extend up to the first $250,000 of income, and add some stimulus-era tax cuts on the working poor and middle class, like expanded child tax credits and Earned Income Tax Credit. After the vote on the Republican plan completes, the Senate will move directly to a vote on the Democratic plan.

Democrats have so far basically hung together in opposition to the one-year extension of all the tax cuts. Only Mark Pryor from Sam Walton’s Arkansas has crossed the aisle thus far, and Ben Nelson, Jon Tester, Joe Manchin and Joe Lieberman have voted with the Democrats. The final outcome was 45-54, which means that at least two Republicans voted against the bill (Republican Mark Kirk is still recuperating from a stroke, and won’t be voting today). I’ll get the roll call later. (UPDATE: Susan Collins and Scott Brown voted against their party and the one-year extension of all the tax cuts.)

For the Democratic plan, Harry Reid has been saying for a while that he has an outright majority, and just now on the floor he vowed that the bill “will pass.” In an unusual (for the modern Senate) move, both votes are taking place under majority rules, so if Reid is correct, the Senate will have passed the Democratic tax cut bill. Mitch McConnell has said this would draw a “blue-slip” problem, because tax bills cannot originate in the Senate. But there are ways around that, like using a shell bill from the House, or creating a process where the Senate bill acts as an amendment to what the House will pass next week, a one-year extension similar to what the Senate just voted down. Reid responded to this by calling the blue slip process “an arcane matter” and that multiple bills, like the transportation bill and the FAA authorization, have passed into law despite originating in the Senate in this fashion. The House isn’t passing this bill, so this is largely academic, and the important part of this is that Reid got his majority vote while denying the same to Republicans.

Mitch McConnell earlier tried to criticize Democrats for “barely mustering 50 votes” on the bill. That’s called a majority.

…voting has begun on the Democratic tax cut plan, which is expected to pass with either 50 or 51 votes.

…As expected, Joe Lieberman and Jim Webb voted against the Democratic plan. Pryor is the wild card, Joe Manchin and Ben Nelson voted with the Democrats. So it’ll either be 50-49 or 51-48 in favor.

…Pryor votes with the Democrats, and the bill passes 51-48. It is refreshing to see what happens in absence of a filibuster. The bills just pass and everyone can move on. Isn’t this a better world?

…Reid statement:

“The Senate passed a plan that will cut taxes for 98 percent of Americans and protect middle-class families in Nevada and across the country from the fiscal cliff. The Senate plan is the only solution that stands a chance of being signed into law to provide middle-class families security. Our colleagues in the House should take up our plan and pass it immediately. There is absolutely nothing stopping House Republicans from passing the Senate’s plan, if they possessed the courage to do the right thing for middle class families.

“To date, Republicans have insisted on holding middle-class families hostage to additional tax giveaways for millionaires and billionaires. Democrats believe we should focus on the middle class, but we have months to debate the right approach to tax policy. In the meantime, the responsible approach is for Republicans to stand up to the Tea Party, meet Democrats on common ground and pass these tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans.”

The House will pass their version of the tax bill, a one-year extension of all the Bush tax cuts, next week. Would they dare to go to conference after that? Doubtful.

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David Dayen

David Dayen