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

In an unexpected twist Wednesday, Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum 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 ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act 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 McCaskillBiden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies On The Trail: Trump-inspired challengers target GOP governors MORE (Mo.) and Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms 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.