This was a vote on final passage of legislation extending tax cuts (which were enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush) for middle class taxpayers, but allowing tax cuts for wealthy individuals and families to expire.
In 2011, the tax cuts signed into law by President Bush in 2001 and 2003 were scheduled to expire. Democrats supported extending tax cuts for middle class taxpayers, arguing that middle-income earners should not face a tax hike during a recession. (This particular recession began in 2008, and had persisted for more than two years). Many Democrats, however, objected to extending tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans meanwhile, insisted that the Bush-era tax cuts be extended for all Americans. President Obama had urged Congress to pass legislation extending tax cuts only for middle class Americans.
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) urged support for the bill: “This is the moment to stand up and be counted on middle-income tax cuts. The Republicans want to continue to keep middle-income tax cuts hostage, hostage until it's combined with upper-income tax cuts. It's, in part, because they don't want to have to vote separately on tax cuts for the very wealthy.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) also argued in favor of the measure: “…We have to draw a line somewhere. We have to say the people who have done extremely well over the last 10 years thanks to the Bush tax cuts need to pay a little more. This won't kill jobs. We won't be crying crocodile tears for them. It's more important that we make sure that the vast majority of Americans have the income they need to drive this economy. That's where the business people, small and large, will prosper.”
Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) urged opposition to the bill: “The unemployment rate in October, the latest data available, was 9.6 percent. That marked 15 consecutive months we are at or above 9.5 percent unemployment in this country, the longest period since the Great Depression….What's a Democrat's answer to the Great Recession? Increased taxes, but not just any taxes. Democrats in the bill before us today are targeting half of all small business income in the country. Democrats are targeting the very employers we need, hiring more workers, and buying more equipment, not paying more taxes.”
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) criticized the measure: “They [the Democrats] have tried to spend their way into economic prosperity; it has failed. They have tried to borrow their way into national economic prosperity; it has failed….Here today, again, another opportunity to tax our way into economic prosperity. It does not work. The American people have rejected this tired, old class warfare rhetoric. You cannot help the job seeker by punishing the job creator.”
The House passed the middle class tax cut bill by a vote of 234-188. 231 Democrats – including the vast majority of progressives – and 3 Republicans voted “yea.” 168 Republicans and 20 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation extending tax cuts for middle class taxpayers, but allowing tax cuts for wealthy individuals and families to expire.