(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Joe Biden made the rare move to come to Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon and fill his seat as “president of the Senate,” presiding over the Senate as they cast two votes on dueling tax cut plans.
In the end the vice president did not need to cast a tie-breaking vote, and the Democratic tax cut plan passed by a vote of 51-48.
“The bill is passed,” Biden announced from the chair.
Sen. Lieberman, I-Conn., and Sen. Webb, D-Va., voted against the Democrats’ plan, which would extend the Bush tax rates for families making under $250,000 for one year and let rates for families earning about $250,000 expire. No Republicans voted with the Democrats.
“This is a big victory for the American people today,” Biden said at the Ohio Clock in the Capitol following the vote.
Republicans have long fought against this plan because they consider this a tax hike on small businesses, as people and small businesses making over $250,000 who would see their tax cuts expire. In a still-recovering economy, they say this would stunt hiring even more.
With Biden looking on, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reminded the Senate that he and the vice president once negotiated in 2010 a two-year full extension of the Bush tax cuts because the economy wasn’t doing well at the time.
“Today my colleagues, the economy is growing slower than it was in December of 2010,” McConnell said, calling the Democratic plan a “uniquely bad idea,” as more than 50 percent of small business would see an increase in their taxes with the end of the extension.
But don’t hold your breath for the Senate-passed legislation to become law. Without support from across the aisle, this plan has no chance of being brought up or passing in the Republican-led House of Representatives. Republicans will also argue that the Democrats’ bill will never become law because they claim it does not pass “constitutional muster’” because all revenue bills must originate in the House.
But Democrats, who called for the House to take up the bill, will use this in an election year to push their message, believing they now have the upper hand, and immediately cast this as a “watershed moment.”
“For the first time we got a majority vote in the Senate to help the middle class with tax breaks without having to tie them with tax breaks to the wealthiest among us. That hasn’t passed in the Senate for a very long time,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, said. “The water will now flow in our direction, not theirs.”
Immediately before voting through the Democratic plan, the Senate voted down the Republicans’ tax cut plan by a vote of 45-54. Republicans Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted against the Republicans’ tax plan. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., was the lone Democrat to cross the aisle and voted with the Republicans.
The Republican plan would extend all tax rates for another year.
“Our economy needs relief,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said of the Republicans’ plan he sponsored. “Businesses and families need certainty and all we are proposing is extending current tax law for one more year so that we can dedicate that year and do tax reform. By contrast, the Democratic bill offers nothing but more uncertainty and tax increases on job creators.”
Democrats classify this as giving a tax break to “millionaires and billionaires,” who don’t need and wouldn’t spend the money to help boost the economy.
The significance of Wednesday’s vote most likely will end up being symbolic and contribute to Democratic messaging in an election year, revealed slightly by Schumer, the Senate’s person in charge of messaging, after the vote.
“This will be a positive day for November,” Schumer said, “and more importantly a positive day for the middle class and America. The House is going to have some serious explaining to do for the middle class of America.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sara Murray, CNN
Kelly Wallace, CNN