Tax Relief For The 98 Percent Passes Senate But Still Held Hostage

Isaiah J. Poole

Conservative senators were set Wednesday afternoon to hold tax relief for 98 percent of Americans hostage so that the 2 percent of Americans who earn more than $250,000 a year would not have to pay an additional dime in taxes. But a Senate majority made a statement: While the vast majority of Americans should continue to get a break as they recover, break time is over for the wealthiest Americans who have already recovered.

Votes were scheduled today on two tax bills, a Democratic leadership-backed Middle Class Tax Cut Act (S. 3412), which allows the Bush-era tax breaks to expire on income in excess of $250,000, and the Republican alternative (S. 3413), which keeps those tax breaks in place. The Middle Class Tax Cut bill passed the Senate, 51-48, while the Republican alternative was defeated, 45-54.

But this victory is largely symbolic. The Republican leadership in the House has made it clear that they have no intention of allowing a vote on ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent while keeping them for everyone else.

Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage earlier today called on the Senate to support the Democratic proposal.

It’s time we stop giving large tax cuts to those who need them the least at the expense of the middle- and lower-income Americans who are struggling to get by. The senators who vote for the bill today want to ensure that every American pays their fair share.

Ending the Bush tax cuts on household income above $250,000 would save the government nearly $1 trillion in the next decade, according to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, compared to extending all of the cuts. Wealthy people earning more than $1 million a year get an average tax break of $143,000 from the Bush tax cuts, but middle-class people making about $50,000 a year get an average tax break of only $1,000, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

“Opponents of this bill essentially argue that the rich have too little money and the poor have too much,” said Borosage. “When the rich get tax breaks they don’t need and the country can’t afford, the middle class has to make up the difference – that’s not right.”

Conservatives have been asking middle-class and low-income people to give up a broad range of essential programs and benefits. The one group that has not been asked to give up anything is the top 2 percent of Americans. We can’t make the investments we need to strengthen our economy and bring down the deficit as long as congressional conservatives are hell-bent on exempting the wealthiest Americans from doing their fair share.

On Thursday, we’ll be posting the results of today’s vote on TheMiddleClass.org. You’ll see which members of the Senate voted for sensible tax policy, and which ones are standing in the way to shield the wealthy from doing their part.


Updated with Senate votes 5:30 p.m.

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