This vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Jim Bunning, R-Ky., that would repeal the 1993 tax increase on Social Security benefits for one year. The amendment would pay for the foregone tax revenue by cutting various programs inside the bill except those designated for military veterans. The amendment was offered to a $900 billion spending bill intended to bolster the flagging economy and create jobs.
When Bunning offered his amendment, Max Baucus, D-Mont., attempted to defeat it with a parliamentary maneuver that takes advantage of a rule barring amendments that increase the deficit. Bunning then made a motion that that the rule be waived for his amendment, which is what this vote was on.
Bunning said the tax hike his amendment would repeal sets a Social Security income tax rate of 85 percent for individuals earning more than $35,000 annually.
“My amendment is very simple. It gives seniors a break for 1 year from paying this tax. While I would love to see this tax permanently repealed, suspending it for 1 year is a start and a stimulus to get money into the pockets of our senior citizens so they can help stimulate the economy. It would help do it immediately, by allowing millions of seniors to keep more of their Social Security benefits. With wild fluctuations in gas prices and increases in health care and food costs, this tax relief could make a difference to millions of seniors across this country,” Bunning said.
Baucus said that Bunning’s amendment would effectively undo part of the budget agreement that was put into effect in 1993, which balanced the budget and resulted in a massive surplus.
“The fact is, the amendment reduces taxes only on the top 24 percent, the highest income-earning seniors. Twenty-four percent of the most wealthy seniors—that is highest income—will get a break in taxes. Other seniors will not. The other 76 percent will get no break,” Baucus said. “The Senator from Kentucky pays for it by reducing parts of the bill which create jobs. This is highways, this is roads, this is energy, and so forth. Frankly, I don’t think that is a wise course of action to take.”
By a vote of 39-57, the motion was rejected. All but two Republicans present voted for the motion. All but two Democrats present voted against the motion. The end result is that the motion to waive the rule failed, the amendment was killed with a parliamentary maneuver, and the bill went forward without language that would have nullified a 1993 increase in Social Security taxes.