Despite no Senate hearings, no economic impact report, no committee mark-up and after a series of tempered, robotic academic recitations, the Senate approved, via a Motion to Concur, the Obama-McConnell Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 on December 15th by a vote of 81 - 19.
Even after Sen Bernie Sander’s lonely impassioned all day oration against the ‘compromise’ on Friday, most Democratic Senators dutifully delivered their vote because it was more important to protect a beleaguered President than protect suffering American families from the long term fiscal implications of Obama’s agreement with McConnell.
The No Votes on final passage were: (Republicans in italics)
Bingaman (NM) Leahy (VT)
Coburn (OK) Levin (MI)
Demint (SC) Merkeley (OR)
Dorgan (ND) Sanders (VT)
Ensign (NV) Sessions (AL)
Feingold (WI) Udall (CO)
Gillibrand (NY) Udall (NM)
Hagan (NC) Voinovich (OH)
Harkin (Iowa) Wyden (OR)
The next morning, debate began in the House as many Democrats expressed fear of the sure-to-come-attacks on Social Security, Medicare and other People Programs. But it was the effort to renew the Estate Tax, known in 1913 as the Inheritance Tax, that infuriated many House Democrats. Sounding more like fiscal conservatives than their Republican counterparts who spoke like the Big Spenders they are, Democrats saw the agreement as a tax give-away catapulting the country’s debt beyond the approved $14 trillion limit while the economy continues to stagger on the edge.
Benefiting a mere 3/10ths of 1% of the country’s wealthiest citizens, approximately 6,600 estates (or 3,500 families) would receive an average additional tax cut of $1.5 million a year. The Senate approved a tax exemption on estates up to $5 million with a maximum tax rate of 35% which is expected to add $1 trillion to the federal deficit.
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (ND) a blue-dog who lost his re-election bid, offered an amendment that would limit the deduction on estates at $3.5 million and increased the tax rate to 45%. If approved, the amendment would save the Federal government an estimated $23 billion.
As Senate Democrats lost their moral compass, sounding more like moderate Republicans with no heart for the middle class, was in stark contrast to House Democrats who found theirs as they spoke truth to power. While House debate continued until midnight, many irate Democrats found their voice in fervent opposition to the tax cut agreement and sometimes with raging anger, the House chambers rocked with the recurring theme of support for the threatened 75 year old New Deal programs that have benefited millions and millions of Americans. FDR would have been proud.
Surely House Democrats are aware, as the new 112th Congress take their seats, they will be fighting the same fight again – without help from Democrats in the Senate or the President of the United States.
The vote against the Pomeroy Amendment was 232 (including 60 Democrats) and.194 (included 17 Republicans) in favor
Vote on Final passage, after pleas from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, was 277 in support of the tax cut agreement and 148 (with 36 Republicans) against.