Huge Senate majority votes to advance $858B tax-cut package

Huge Senate majority votes to advance $858B tax-cut package

President Obama's $858 billion tax package won a huge bipartisan majority in the Senate on Monday evening, setting it up for a contentious debate in the House.

On an 83-15 vote, the Senate quashed a filibuster by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's 12:30 Report Five takeaways from the Montana special election Hillary Clinton targets troubled Trump, divided GOP with new PAC MORE (I-Vt.).

Fifteen lawmakers voted against it, including five Republicans: Sens. Tom CoburnTom Coburn'Path of least resistance' problematic for Congress Freedom Caucus saved Paul Ryan's job: GOP has promises to keep Don't be fooled: Carper and Norton don't fight for DC MORE (Okla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsTrump and Russia: A timeline on communications Hispanic Dems demand meeting with Sessions Justice Department to seek Supreme Court review in Trump travel ban case MORE (Ala.), John Ensign (Nev.) and George Voinovich (Ohio). 

Nine Democrats and one Independent voted against the bill: Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownAuthor of Hillbilly Elegy encouraged to run for Senate: report Overnight Finance: Trump moves to begin NAFTA talks | Dems press Treasury chief on taxes, Dodd-Frank | Biz leaders want tax changes to be permanent Mnuchin mum as Dems press for answers on tax reform, Dodd-Frank MORE (Ohio), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBill would require sexual assault, social media training for military recruits Dem senator: 'One of our closest allies' expressed concern about intelligence sharing Intel chief quiet on whether Trump asked him to deny Russia evidence MORE (N.Y.), Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyTrump’s travel ban would not have prevented an attack like Manchester Lawmakers reintroduce measure to lift Cuba travel restrictions Majority of Senate supports Cuban tourism bill MORE (Vt.), Carl LevinCarl LevinDemocrats and Republicans share blame in rewriting the role of the Senate For the sake of American taxpayers, companies must pay their fair share What the Iran-Contra investigation can teach us about Russia probe MORE (Mich.), Mark UdallMark UdallPicking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' Election autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed MORE (Colo.) and Sanders. 

“It makes no sense to me to provide huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires while we drive up the national debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay," Sanders said in a statement after the vote. 

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Obama applauded the Senate's action to move his tax-cut compromise with Republicans and urged the House to do the same quickly.

In a statement in the White House briefing room, Obama hailed the Senate's "strong bipartisan support" for the package and declared "this proves that both parties can, in fact, work together."

Retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said he voted for the package because he thought it unlikely Congress could win equally generous benefits for the unemployed next year, when Republicans will control the House.

“To sit there and watch this institution, the Congress, do great damage to the unemployed because we rejected a proposal I didn’t like but was a lot better than the one you’re going to get,” said Dodd, “I would have been upset with myself.”

A vote on final passage could happen as soon as Tuesday if opponents agree to waive the 30 hours that must elapse after a vote to end a filibuster.

Given Monday’s lopsided vote, the package is expected to win final passage easily, which one Democratic leadership aide predicted would “likely” happen on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidGOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing This week: Congress awaits Comey testimony Will Republicans grow a spine and restore democracy? MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts Senate confirms Trump's first lower-court nominee Top GOP senators tell Trump to ditch Paris climate deal MORE (Ky.) were in the midst of negotiating an agreement to allow Democrats and Republicans to offer a few amendments to the package. A senior Democratic aide, however, said none of the amendments is expected to pass.

Senate action will send the package to the House, where Democrats will hold a caucus meeting Tuesday to discuss how to proceed, said a Democratic aide.

House Democrats could set up a self-executing rule that would bring the legislation to the floor with changes. In particular, Democratic leaders are looking at reworking the rates the Senate has set for the estate tax.

One option is to bring the package to the floor with language that would set the estate tax at its 2009 level: a 45 percent tax on individual inheritances over $3.5 million.

This path would send the bill back to the Senate to approve the changes, but Republicans in the upper chamber would likely balk at a substantial revision to a core element of their agreement with President Obama.

McConnell warned that House Democrats would cause tax rates to go up across the board if they tampered with the bipartisan deal.

“We now urge the House leadership to bring this bipartisan agreement to a vote without political games or partisan changes designed only to block this bill’s passage in the House,” McConnell said in a statement. “If the House Democratic leadership decides to make partisan changes, they will ensure that every American taxpayer will see a job-killing tax hike on Jan. 1.”

Dodd, however, said “if the House comes back with something different, and I hope they do, and we can do it, I’ll be one of the happiest members around here.”

Another option is to bring the Senate-passed bill to the floor and allow a vote on a House Democratic substitute. This would allow the House to pass the Senate bill unchanged and give liberal members political cover to vote for a substitute. 

Obama said he understands members of both parties are "unhappy" with the compromise, but he said the package is "first and foremost" a "substantial victory" for middle-class families. 

House Democrats have vocally opposed the package, which would extend for two years most of the Bush-era tax cuts, including income tax rates for even the nation’s wealthiest families. They are most disappointed with the decision to set the estate tax at 35 percent and apply it only to individual inheritances over $5 million.

The legislation would extend federal unemployment benefits for 13 months and cut the Social Security payroll tax by two percentage points, from 6.2 to 4.2 percent.

It includes a two-year fix of the Alternative Minimum Tax to protect an estimated 21 million households, many in wealthy communities in the Northeast, from higher taxes.

It would allow businesses to write up 100 percent of the cost of certain major investments in 2011.

It would extend a variety of business and energy tax incentives, such as the research and development tax credit, the ethanol tax credit and grants for the solar and wind industries.

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainArmed Services chairman unveils .1B Asia-Pacific security bill Overnight Defense: Trump scolds NATO allies over spending | Flurry of leaks worries allies | Senators rip B Army 'debacle' | Lawmakers demand hearing on Saudi arms deal The case for protecting America's intelligence agency whistleblowers MORE (R-Ariz.) and some taxpayer-advocacy groups ripped some of the energy provisions. McCain called the ethanol provision the “Hawkeye Handout” because senators from corn states, such as Tom HarkinTom HarkinDistance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream MORE (D-Iowa), supported the provision.

The ethanol tax credit would cost about $6 billion in 2011. Taxpayers for Common Sense noted the Government Accountability Office found the credit duplicative of the current renewable fuels standard.

Mike Lillis and Sam Youngman contributed to this report. 

This story was posted at 4:14 p.m. and updated at 7:10 p.m.