A bizarre and bitter day in the Senate was poised to end Tuesday with the failure of Democrats and Republicans to agree on how to vote on a tax cut plan.
The day started nasty and just got worse, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., blocked a simple majority vote on the tax cut plan offered by his own party.
Democrats crowed over that and were clearly still resentful that the GOP leader also blocked a majority vote on Democrats' own plan aimed more at the middle class.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made no effort to hide his anger in a tense floor exchange with McConnell.
"Republicans claim to share Democrats' commitment to keeping taxes low for the middle class. So it's strange that they have repeatedly blocked votes on our proposal to cut taxes for 98 percent of American families," Reid said. "Two weeks ago, Republicans seemed eager to have these votes."
At the heart of the issue are the Senate's quirky rules that require a supermajority of 60 for any procedural votes. Both parties have used this in the past, but Reid has been talking lately about changing the rules should Democrats keep the chamber after the November elections.
At a mid-afternoon press conference, Reid said Republicans have filibustered legislation 84 times since 2007.
For his part, McConnell shot back that he would oppose any effort to change the Senate's rules in this Congress or the next.
"It's pretty obvious here the reason the Senate is so inactive is because the majority leader doesn't want to take up any serious bills that are important to the future of the country," McConnell said.
He added, "What my friend the majority leader is saying is it's inconvenient to work with all these senators who have different points of view and want to do different things. Heck, that's the way legislation is passed. It's not supposed to be easy."
Without an agreement, and with election-year politics heavy on senators' minds, it is unclear whether any tax cut plan will come up for a vote before November.
by RTT Staff Writer
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