Sen. McConnell calls for straight up-or-down votes on Bush tax rates

In an unexpected twist Wednesday, Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report Republican strategist: Trump is 'driven by ego' Senate GOP campaign arm asking Trump to endorse McSally in Arizona: report MORE (R-Ky.) agreed to simple majority votes on Democratic and Republican plans to extend the Bush-era tax rates.

McConnell’s offer raises the prospect that Democrats could pass through the Senate legislation to raise taxes on wealthy Americans.

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But it has little prospect of becoming law because revenue-raising measures must originate in the House and House Republicans will not pass a bill to end the Bush tax rates for any income brackets.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBattle of the billionaires drives Nevada contest Senate Democrats should stop playing politics on Kavanaugh Celebrities dive into midterms, hoping to thwart Trump MORE (D-Nev.) said earlier this month that he would have enough Democrats to pass his caucus’s tax proposal by a simple majority vote.

McConnell said he agreed to the unusual arrangement to force vulnerable Democrats to vote on the merits of the competing tax bills and not hide behind procedural votes that keep the Bush tax rates from receiving up-or-down votes.

A senior GOP aide said McConnell wants to force vulnerable Democrats such as Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillStudy: 3 of every 10 House candidate websites vulnerable to hacks Unions see Missouri win as red state watershed US suspected Russia was behind 2016 cyberattacks against Swedish news organizations: report MORE (Mo.) and Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Politics is purple in North Carolina MORE (N.C.) to vote for the Democrats’ proposal to raise estate taxes.

“The only way to force people to take a stand is to make sure that today’s votes truly count,” he said. “By setting these votes at the 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, a simple mystery to the people who sent them here,” McConnell said Wednesday morning on the Senate floor.

“That’s what today’s votes are all about, about showing the people who sent us here where we stand,” he added.

He also called for a simple majority vote on President Obama’s plan to extend the Bush-era tax rates only for families earning below $250,000 annually.

The Democrats’ tax plan would also extend tax rates only for families earning below $250,000. It diverges from Obama’s plan in its treatment of taxes on estates and dividends.