The Senate rejected the Republican proposal for extending the Bush-era tax rates in a straight up-or-down vote Wednesday.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Unemployment claims now at 41 million with 2.1 million more added to rolls; Topeka mayor says cities don't have enough tests for minorities and homeless communities Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits MORE (R-Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.) joined Democrats in voting against the GOP plan, which would have extended the Bush-era tax rates and other current tax policies. Brown faces a difficult reelection battle this fall. 

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Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidCortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP Nevada congressman admits to affair after relationship divulged on podcast Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil MORE (Nev.) and Democrats had only one defection — Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 MORE (Ark.). Like Brown, Pryor faces a tough reelection bid. 

Vice President Biden made a rare appearance as the Senate's presiding officer in case his tie-breaking vote was needed to help Democrats pass their own tax plan in a subsequent vote. The Democratic plan would extend only the Bush-era rates on families with income up to $250,000.

Senate leadership had struck a deal earlier in the day to hold two up-or-down votes on both the Republican tax plan, the Tax Hike Prevention Act, and the Democrats’ Middle Class Tax Cut Act.

Democrats said the Republican plan, S. 3413, just protected the wealthiest Americans, while Republicans argued the Democratic plan represented a tax hike on some households.

“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,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation COVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (R-Ky.) said Wednesday.

Despite Republican objections, the Democrats’ S. 3412 is expected to pass by a narrow margin, but will carry little weight since tax bills have to originate in the House and House Republicans are unlikely to accept the Democrats’ bill.

“Republicans are interested in protecting millionaires and billionaires from paying one penny more,” Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCOVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen Democratic leaders say Trump testing strategy is 'to deny the truth' about lack of supplies MORE (D-Wash.) said Tuesday. “Disagreement on tax cuts for the rich should not stop tax cuts for the middle class … but Republicans care about extending those tax cuts for the rich above all else.”

The Democrats’ bill also includes extensions of the earned-income tax credit, child tax credit and opportunity tax credit for college tuition.

The Republican-controlled House will vote on tax measures next week and is likely to pass a similar version to the Senate GOP’s bill. The Senate rejecting that measure sends a clear message to the House that it can’t pass in both chambers, leaving the ball in the House’s court as to whether they are willing to extend tax breaks for just the middle class.

McConnell on Wednesday morning agreed to holding the two up-or-down votes on the competing tax proposals. He said the arrangement would force vulnerable Democratic senators to vote on the merits of each plan and not hide behind procedural votes. 

“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.

The tax votes are only the first salvo in an election year debate about how to avoid the impending fiscal cliff of tax increases and automatic spending cuts agreed to in last year’s debt-ceiling deal.