This vote was on an amendment that would have lowered taxes on Americans who make more than $200,000 per year.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered the amendment during consideration of a Democratic bill that sought to extend the so-called “Bush tax cuts,” which were set to expire at the end of the year. The Democratic bill would extend the tax cuts only for the first $200,000 that a worker makes in a year. The Hatch-McConnell amendment would have included most of those tax cuts, but also extended tax cuts on income above $200,000. In effect, the Democratic proposal provided greater tax breaks to low- and middle-income earners, while the benefits of the Hatch-McConnell amendment were weighted toward the wealthiest Americans.
Supporters of the Hatch-McConnell amendment argued that Congress should not allow taxes to be raised on anyone, including wealthy taxpayers, at a time when the economy was still struggling to recover. They argued that the increased tax rates on income above $200,000 would hurt business owners and other “job creators.”
“The Hatch-McConnell proposal provides across-the-board tax relief benefiting virtually every income tax payer, yielding a tax system that is more progressive than we would face if we went over the fiscal cliff,” Sen. Hatch said, referring to the “fiscal cliff” the country would face if all Bush tax cuts expired. “Let's not hammer small business. Let's not have the biggest tax increase in history. Let's not put this country into a recession – and maybe even a depression.”
Opponents of the Hatch-McConnell amendment argued that it was a giveaway to wealthy Americans who needed it least. They argued that the amendment was fiscally responsible because it would add billions of dollars to the federal budget deficit.
“The decision before us today … poses a question about choices: We can choose to do the economically responsible thing or we can choose to provide additional tax cuts for people who least need them,” Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said. “When everyone pays their fair share, our nation can get back on a path to fiscal responsibility and, at the same time, invest in quality education, in infrastructure, in R&D for high-tech industries. These are the things which create prosperity. We can create good jobs in our manufacturing sector and other emerging industries.”
The Senate defeated the Hatch-McConnell amendment by a vote of 45-54. Voting “yea” were 44 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Voting “nay” were 52 Democrats and 2 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to lower taxes on Americans who make more than $200,000 per year.