ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:
Now that the House has passed a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for individuals earning under $200,000 a year and couples under $250,000, the Senate is set to hold multiple tax cut votes in the coming days, possibly as soon as Friday, according to multiple Democratic aides.
On Thursday night Senate Democrats holed up in a caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, one of many they have held this week, to figure out how exactly to proceed.
First the Senate is expected to vote on the Democratic-backed House bill extending the tax cuts for the middle-class but not the wealthy, even though it appears to stand no chance of winning the 60 votes needed to pass. The Senate is also expected to vote on raising the ceiling from $250,000 to $1 million, but that is also unlikely to pass.
In addition, votes are expected on two Republican alternatives including a measure to extend all the tax cuts permanently. The fourth tax vote, at this point, is unclear.
But once all these measures have been shot down, what is increasingly seen as a more likely outcome for the tax debate is that the White House and Congress will settle on a compromise that will temporarily extend all the Bush tax cuts in exchange for concessions to move forward on other Democratic priorities possibly including an extension of unemployment benefits. Earlier today the six negotiators – Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Office of Management & Budget director Jack Lew, Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, and Rep. Dave Camp, R-MI – met for about 40 minutes in the Capitol.
Just before the meeting began, the House passed the middle-class tax cuts package by a vote of 234-188. House Speaker-to be John Boehner, though, denounced the vote as “chicken crap.”
“This is nonsense,” Boehner said. “The election was one month ago. We’re 23 months from the next election and the political games have already started trying to set up the next election.”
The top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, called the House vote “purely a political exercise.”
“Right now House Democrats are getting ready to send us a bill on taxes that they know won’t pass in the Senate. It’s purely a political exercise,” he stated.
No sooner had the upcoming flurry of Senate votes been announced by Democrats than Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, accused them of “pandering to their political base” with “pointless” votes that are no more than “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.”
“Let’s stop the charades and move forward with a reasonable solution that stops the tax increases on January 1,” he said.
Across the aisle Democrats have hammered Republicans for refusing to move forward on any issues other than the tax cuts or government funding. Democrats have accused the GOP of holding the Senate hostage in an effort to secure tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
“Here you have the Republican party saying that they’re not going to consider anything else anything else until they get these taxpayer-funded bonuses for their millionaires and billionaires,” Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, said Wednesday.
Extending the tax cuts for the wealthy, Democrats highlighted, is set to add an additional $700 billion to the nation’s already-soaring deficit.
“In order to get a bonus tax cut for millionaires and billionaires they are willing to risk the federal deficit, balloon it another $700 billion,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, railed on Wednesday.
“They want to blow the lid off this deficit and not pay for a dime of it,” fumed Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO.