As expected, Senate Republicans have blocked two pieces of legislation that would have allowed taxes to rise on upper income taxpayers and small businesses on Jan. 1.
The vote Saturday on a measure that would have kept the cuts in place for incomes under $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples was defeated when the vote turned out 53-36, seven short of the 60 needed to advance the measure. Another measure that would have kept the cuts in effect except on incomes over $1 million was defeated when a 53-37 vote also fell seven votes short of the necessary 60.
With the votes complete, real negotiations between the White House and Republicans can start on a bill to extend the tax cuts at all levels. That's because many saw the vote on the measures as largely a political statement by Democrats.
"Democrats wanted to show where they stood," Politico reports, "and only after they did that could they begin to accept the inevitable outcome, a temporary renewal of all the Bush tax cuts, rather than just those for the middle class."
“It became apparent the second time we met that actually there weren’t going to be any bipartisan negotiations to reach a decision until there had been a political catharsis on the Democratic side,” said Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who is charged with leading negotiations. “We’ve been very congenial with each other, but it’s been very clear that we’re not going to be negotiating anything until all of this political process is over with.”
Those negotiations are expected to include discussions on renewing expiring jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.
In comments Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made sure to demonize high-end earners and businesses in the wake of the failed measures.
“The majority of the Senate like the majority of the country believes the middle class deserve this tax cuts,” he said. “The minority of the Senate, against all evidence to the contrary that millionaires, billionaires and these big CEOs who ship jobs overseas deserve this giveaway.”
"We feel you should not raise taxes on anyone during a recession," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) responded.
Reid is hopeful an agreement between the two sides can be secured by late next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.