Senate Republicans banded together on Monday to block President Barack Obama's cherished "Buffett Rule" from becoming reality, in a vote rife with election-year politics and populism.
Congress's upper chamber voted 51-45 on a procedural vote that would have moved the legislation forward. Under Senate rules, 60 votes were necessary.
Obama has been promoting the "Buffett Rule" steadily for the past year, and particularly vigorously this spring. Named after wealthy financier Warren Buffett, who famously pays a lower tax rate than his secretary yet has called for higher taxes on high incomes, it would establish a minimum 30 percent tax rate for incomes above $2 million.
"We can't afford to keep spending more money on tax cuts for wealthy Americans who don't need them and weren't even asking for them," Obama said last week. "It's time we did something about it."
He added, "This is also about being able to make the investments we need to succeed. And it's about we as a country being willing to pay for those investments and closing our deficits."
The proposal is favored by 60 percent of Americans, as measured in a recent Gallup Poll, but critics call it class warfare that would do little to ease the national debt or deficit.
The legislation had no hope of passing through the GOP-controlled House, but Senate Democrats on Monday pushed for it anyway, describing the issue as about simple fairness.
"The wealthiest one percent takes home the highest share of the nation's income since the roaring '20s. But while their bank accounts have grown, their tax bills have shrunk," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "The wealthiest Americans now pay the lowest tax rates in 50 years. And this unfair system has turned the gap between the richest few and everyone else into a gulf."
But Republicans fired back that Obama and congressional Democrats are simply diverting attention from the economy and prematurely engaging in general-election politicking.
"Just about everybody agrees that comprehensive tax reform would help turn this economy around, strengthen entitlements, spur innovation and economic growth, and create jobs," said Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"The problem is, we've got a president who seems more interested in pitting people against each other than he is in actually doing what it takes to face these challenges head on and to solve them in a bipartisan manner. And if anybody had any doubt about that, the President's relentless focus on this so-called Buffet tax over the past few weeks should have dispelled it."
by RTT Staff Writer
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