United Senate Republicans joined a small handful of Democrats on Saturday to defeat a pair of proposals to extend some of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Voting nearly identically, the Senate twice failed to meet a 60-vote threshold necessary to move forward on both proposals. Meeting in a rare Saturday session after agreements fell through for a Friday vote, the results were widely expected. They were also somewhat premature, as the White House is still negotiating with congressional leaders on an alternative compromise proposal.
The second proposal by Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerDean: Schumer's endorsement 'kiss of death' for Ellison How the candidates for DNC chair stack up ahead of Saturday's vote DNC candidate Harrison drops out, backs Perez for chairman MORE (D-N.Y.) would have extended the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanently for incomes of up to $1 million, among other provisions such as a one-year extension of unemployment benefits and cuts in capital gains, estate and dividend taxes. That failed, 53-37, with Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (D-Iowa), Dick DurbinDick DurbinDems rip Trump administration for revoking Obama's transgender directive A guide to the committees: Senate McConnell: I’m very sympathetic to 'Dreamers' MORE (D-Ill.) and Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.) joining the ‘no’ votes.
Manchin said he opposed the first measure to allow time for a compromise on the second, which he supported.
“While I have said repeatedly I prefer all the tax cuts be extended, I was open to a common sense compromise that would extend the cuts to those who make up to $1 million - or 99.9 percent of West Virginians,” he said. “Unfortunately, that did not happen.”
Republicans had held firm in recent weeks that the tax cuts — designed to benefit the wealthiest Americans — should be permanently extended as a whole. Democrats had argued that only the cuts for the middle class should be extended, also blasting Republicans for failing to propose any spending cuts or revenue increases to pay for all of the cuts.
“We’ve all heard Republicans weep for the deficit they say they fear. Democrats agree that we need to do something about it,” said Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair The Hill's 12:30 Report Hopes rise for law to expand access to experimental drugs MORE (D-Nev.). “So we have said: OK, how about cutting the deficit by admitting we can’t afford a tax break for millionaires and billionaires? A tax break that would add $4 trillion to the deficit.
“But what did Republicans do? They said, rather than reduce the deficit, we’d really rather give an unnecessary, unwanted and unaffordable handout to the richest of the rich.”
Democrats had also pointed out that all Americans would receive tax cuts under the proposal — incomes of less than $250,000 would receive a cut worth about $5,400, while incomes above $1 million would receive a $40,000 break.
But GOP Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThough flawed, complex Medicaid block grants have fighting chance Sanders: 'If you don't have the guts to face your constituents,' you shouldn't be in Congress McConnell: Trump's speech should be 'tweet free' MORE (Ky.) stuck to the Republican line, arguing that many millionaires are small-business owners, and that increasing their taxes will cost jobs.
“Today’s votes were a clear affront to the millions of Americans who were struggling to find work,” McConnell said. “This Saturday session is a total waste of the American people’s time. The votes we held today were opposed by every single Republican and several Democrats… And nothing we did today will stop the tax hikes, which are now less than a month away.”
Reid on Saturday also laid out the Senate’s pre-Christmas agenda, saying that Democrats plan to move forward next week on several votes including the DREAM Act to establish U.S. citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.
Speaking midway through a rare Saturday morning session on tax-cut votes, Reid said he will file procedural motions on Monday to set up cloture votes on Wednesday for an impeachment proceeding against a judge and various other procedural motions including the DREAM Act. Reid said he made the decision based on agreements with McConnell.
Reid said after Wednesday, he is hopeful that an agreement between the White House and congressional leaders will be in place regarding the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, as well as a continuing resolution to keep funding the government. Reid said he also hoped to squeeze in votes on the START arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia, as well as a defense authorization measure that includes a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the military.
Alluding to last year's Christmas Eve votes on the healthcare reform bill, Reid said he planned to adjourn the chamber on Friday, Dec. 17, for Christmas recess.
"We all know where we were last year on Christmas Eve," Reid said. "We don't want to be in the same place this Christmas Eve."
This story was updated at 12:20 p.m.