This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to 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. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “…This is about fairness. We need to fight for working families and let the tax breaks for the wealthy expire so that they can start to pay their fair share of taxes. Today's vote on this bill will let the American people, the 98 percent who don't make $200,000 a year, including 323,000 families in Hawaii, know who is on their side fighting for them.”
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) urged opposition to the resolution and the underlying bill, arguing Congress should vote to extend tax cuts for all Americans: “…I have an unemployment rate in part of the area I'm privileged to represent in Southern California, Mr. Speaker, that is in excess of 15 percent. We have a statewide unemployment rate in the largest state of the Union, the largest, most important state of the Union, the state of California, we have a 12 1/2 percent unemployment rate. People are hurting. And so to do anything other than ensure that we don't increase taxes on the people who are struggling to create jobs for our fellow Americans is something that we have a responsibility to do.”
The House agreed to this resolution by a vote of 213-203. 213 Democrats – including all progressives present – voted “yea.” All 170 Republicans present and 33 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation extending tax cuts for middle class taxpayers, but allowing tax cuts for wealthy individuals and families to expire.