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

In an unexpected twist Wednesday, Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters 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 ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama 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 McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Mo.) and Kay HaganKay HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 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.