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Reverse Limbo Contest Develops in the Senate Over Tax Cut Extensions

Is a compromise on extending the tax cuts enacted under Pres. Bush in the offing? After a weekend of politicking, it seems that Democrats are willing to deal and Republicans are in the driver seat.

Buzz has been overheard that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) may be pulling strings for a procedural vote early during this coming week, perhaps on a compromise amendment yet to be defined. If true, it could be a development that sets the tone for how the upper house will handle business in the next Congress.

At issue in any compromise is just how big of a tax sanctuary Democrats and Republicans can agree on in terms of extending current rates. Two procedural votes taken Saturday on amendments failed passage – both coming seven votes short of the 60 required to move legislation forward – but provided Republican negotiators with a path to providing stability for more than 99 percent of Americans.

The initial amendment would have altered the basic plan to reinstitute higher rates on all Americans earning more than $250,000, replacing it with an extension of current rates to all income under $250,000. Income earned above that mark would be taxed at the higher rates. In the second of the two Democrat-sponsored amendments, the level of tax amnesty increased to $1 million.

What stands out in the two votes was the consistent level of Democratic support for both amendments. Although the proposals evolved to include ever more wealthy Americans, Democrats held solid with 53 votes. Some of the individual votes changed, but the size of the bloc remained the same. All in all, it may indicate a willingness for Democrats to sustain lower taxes for high income earners, a group that has routinely been an easy target of opportunity.

The message to McConnell and Senate Republicans should be clear: Keep probing for the trigger point.

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[Cross-posted by author from Red County.]

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