Senate ready to pass tax plan
83-15 vote limits debate; House is seen as obstacle
WASHINGTON – The Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to limit debate on the White House/Republican tax-cut deal, a test vote that virtually assures Senate passage in a day or two of the plan to extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years.
Sixty votes were needed to shut off debate, and Monday’s vote was 83-15. A final vote is expected today or Wednesday on the tax-cut compromise crafted by President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans.
Obama, in a brief statement after the Senate outcome became clear, said he understood the uneasy mood on Capitol Hill.
“I recognize that folks on both sides of the political spectrum are unhappy with certain parts of the package. And I understand those concerns. I share some of them,” he said.
The plan would continue benefits for the long-term unemployed for 13 months, reduce the Social Security payroll tax by 2 percentage points next year, set a 35 percent tax on estates of $5 million or more, and extend dozens of special tax breaks for businesses, energy and education interests.
Despite the vote, many senators displayed little enthusiasm for the package. Some senators were reluctant to extend the lowered rates for the wealthy, others didn’t like extending jobless benefits without paying for them and most were unhappy that the deal would balloon the federal budget deficit.
The Senate is expected to consider some changes to the bill, but they are unlikely to pass.
The bigger obstacle is expected to be the House of Representatives, though Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Monday, “I think we’ll pass a bill.”