Senate agrees to two up-or-down votes on Bush-era tax rates

Senate leadership struck a deal to hold two up-or-down votes on tax plans — one from Democrats and one from Republicans — at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The deal came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor Wednesday morning that Republicans would agree to the up-or-down votes.

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“The only way to force people to take a stand is to make sure that today’s votes truly count,” McConnell said. “By setting these votes at a 50-vote threshold, nobody on the other side can hide behind a procedural vote while leaving their views on the actual bill itself a mystery to the people who sent them here. That’s what today’s votes are all about: about showing the people who sent us here where we stand.

“The American people should know where we stand; today they will,” McConnell said.

McConnell tried to force a vote on President Obama's tax plan, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) objected.

The Republican’s plan would extend the Bush tax rates for all income levels.

The Democrats’ Middle Class Tax Cut Act would extend Bush-era tax rates on income up to $250,000 and includes the earned income tax credit, child tax credit and opportunity tax credit for college tuition.

Democrats say their bill is better for middle class Americans and that the Republican plan aims to protect the wealthiest.

“Why would the Republican proposal today want to raise taxes on families with children?” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “If they can find a tax break for the wealthiest, can’t they find one for families with children.”

Republicans say that Democrats’ bill would harm small business owners and farmers.

“The Senate Democrat plan, which raises taxes on a million small business owners at a moment when we’re counting on them to create jobs, raises taxes on thousands of family farmers and small business owners grieving the loss of a loved one, leaves a middle-class tax hike in place, and reforms nothing,” McConnell said.

One of the reasons McConnell said he agreed to the votes was because the results won’t hold any weight. Tax bills have to originate in the House and House Republicans are unlikely to accept the Democrats' bill. The House will vote on tax measures next week.

“Ordinarily, Republicans would do everything we can to keep a plan as damaging as the Democrats’ from passing," McConnell said. "And the only reason we won’t block it today is that we know it doesn’t pass constitutional muster and won’t become law. If the Democrats were serious, they’d proceed to a House-originated revenue bill as the Constitution requires."

Reid tried to fix the "blue slip" problem so that the bill didn't have to originate in the House, but McConnell objected.

The Democrats' plan is expected to pass by a narrow margin and the GOP’s will likely fail.

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