From the moment President Obama unveiled the American Jobs Act last month, he has implored Congress countless times to pass the bill. Tuesday evening, when the Senate takes a vote on whether to begin debate on the measure, Obama may have one of those “be careful what you wish for” moments because it is possible that the bill may be headed for defeat.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has rewritten part of the bill to include a 5.6 percent surtax on annual incomes above $1 million. This was done to appease Democrats who objected to a provision in the president’s original bill that would impose limits on tax deductions for such things as charitable donations and mortgage interest for individuals and married couples, respectively, earning more than $200,000 and $250,000 per year. For people living in high-cost areas like New York City, they argued, those incomes don’t stretch as far as many would imagine.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) had hoped to force a vote on the bill as Obama originally submitted it to embarrass the president by getting Democrats’ objections on record. But Reid employed a rarely used procedure, dubbed the “nuclear option” which enabled the Senate to pass by a simple majority a measure that would prevent that from happening and allow the chamber to move forward with debate on the revised bill.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said last week that Reid’s version would raise $453 billion over 10 years to fully pay for the package. In addition, it would decrease the deficit by about $6 billion. Senate Republicans insist that raising taxes would hurt the economy, and have vowed to not support the legislation in any form. They’re also predicting that Reid will fail to gather the 60 votes needed to begin debate, in part because of moderate Democrats who are still unsure about the bill and others facing tough re-election battles.
A majority of Americans, however, say that they support higher taxes for the wealthy, according to recent polls. A CBS News survey released last week found that 64 percent support the increase, including 83 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and 40 percent of Republicans. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 75 percent said they agreed that millionaires should have their taxes raised.
“The fundamental question in advance of tomorrow’s vote is this: will Republicans put country ahead of party and pass this bill?,” said Obama’s senior campaign strategist David Axelrod in a memo to “interested parties” shared with BET.com. “Or will they oppose a bill that would create jobs now and that the American people support while standing by their proposals to extend tax cuts for large corporations, millionaires and billionaires while allowing Wall Street to write its own rules?”
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