United States Senate to take symbolic votes on taxes today
WASHINGTON: The Senate will vote on two Democratic options to extend some Bush-era tax cuts on Saturday, its Democratic leader said, measures likely to fail but highlight deep ideological divisions between the parties.
Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid had been set to schedule four votes on Friday on competing Republican and Democratic tax plans to renew some or all of the lower tax rates enacted under former President George W. Bush.
But the deal fell apart after at least one Republican objected, denying needed unanimous Senate consent, Reid said.
"We're disappointed," Reid told reporters.
The votes on Saturday on the two Democratic bills will underscore the party's aim to renew tax relief for lower-and middle-income Americans and Republicans' desire to extend them for all taxpayers, including the wealthiest.
But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell accused his opponents in a statement late on Thursday of staging a meaningless "political show vote" that would run afoul of Republicans and "a growing chorus of Democrats" in the Senate.
"It's time to get serious," McConnell said. "Every day spent on a political show-vote is another day that Democrats won't be able to debate items that should actually pass."
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives, in the waning days of Democratic control, passed an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for family incomes of up to $250,000.
That measure, approved on a largely party-line vote of 234-188, appears certain to die in the Senate.
The Senate will vote on a measure similar to the Housepassed bill, along with a compromise measure offered by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, which would let the top tax rates expire only on income above $1 million a year. "We want to lay it out there and finally get votes on what we're for," Democratic Senator Tom Harkin said after a meeting with Democrats late on Thursday. "I suppose after this is over we'll get down to see what we can finally get done."
Democratic aides said Republicans had offered two alternatives, one to permanently renew all tax cuts, the other to extend them for five years.
Most Democrats say Republicans are willing to jeopardize low tax rates for middle-and lower-income taxpayers to ensure low taxes for the wealthiest Americans.
The measures set for a vote on Saturday are not likely to muster the needed 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to clear a Republican procedural roadblock. Meanwhile, congressional leaders and the Obama administration officials are set to continue private talks of their own. -Reuters