Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he plans to hold two tax cut votes on Democratic proposals Saturday after a bipartisan deal to have four votes in the Senate collapsed.
The two Saturday votes will be on the House-passed bill to extend tax cuts for Americans earning under $250,000 a year and another from Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to raise the threshold to $1 million a year.
The debate started in earnest on Friday, with Reid firing the first shot of the day.
"The truth is simple -- holding middle-class tax cuts hostage for tax breaks for the wealthy that they don't need and we can't afford is irresponsible," Reid said.
Hours later the Senate's top Republican Mitch McConnell fired back.
"All of this finger-pointing is doing nothing to create jobs. It's a total waste of time," McConnell said. "This morning, we learned unemployment is now at 9.8 percent – even higher than last month – and Democrats are responding with a vote to slam job creators with a massive tax increase. Millions of out-of-work Americans don't want showboating or finger-pointing contests. What they would like, Mr. President, are jobs."
"Americans don't want to see meaningless theatrics in Congress," he continued. "They want us to do something about the economy – and the single biggest thing we can do is to tell small businesses across the country that they're not going to get a tax hike next month."
Meanwhile, an administration official said that the White House-Congress Gang of Six tax negotiators agreed at Thursday's meeting that they will not meet again until after the Senate votes this weekend.
Reid, D-Nev., had been working with Republicans to gain the unanimous consent of all senators to bring four votes to the floor -- the two Democratic proposals as well as two Republican ones.
The GOP votes were to be on a proposal to permanently extend the tax cuts for all Americans, including the wealthy, and a proposal to temporarily extend all the tax cuts for five years. However, a Republican senator objected, so Reid instead filed cloture tonight on the two Democratic proposals.
"We think we can show the American people what the Democratic priorities are and we are free to talk about what the Republican priorities are because they showed us today," Reid told reporters after a night of closed-door meetings on the Hill.
"We are for tax cuts for the middle class and they will do everything they can to further their number-one goal: tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," outlined Schumer.
No sooner had the upcoming flurry of Senate votes been announced by Democrats than Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, accused them of "pandering to their political base" with "pointless" votes that are "charades."
"With only 28 days until middle-class families, job creators and investors are hit with massive job-killing tax hikes, Senate Democrats are scheduling pointless tax votes that have no chance of becoming law," Hatch said. "Pandering to their political base with these votes isn't the responsible action the American people are demanding from their elected officials."
The sparring on Capitol Hill comes as the nation's unemployment rate jumped significantly to 9.8 percent, according to a report released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With today's jobs data, there have been a net of 7.5 million jobs lost since December 2007, the first month of the great recession.