This was a vote on a motion to bring up legislation (known as a motion to proceed) expressing support for a deficit reduction bill that would require Americans earning at least $1 million per year to pay more in federal taxes. Specifically, the underlying bill (known as a “sense of the Senate” bill) simply stated: “It is the sense of the Senate that any agreement to reduce the budget deficit should require that those earning $1,000,000 or more per year make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort.”
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) supported the bill: “For our colleagues who say, oh, you can't touch [tax] revenue or you will kill the economy, you will kill job creation--really? How about the historic record? The historic record shows very clearly that during the Clinton years, when you had revenue at the same level as we have in this plan, you had the longest economic expansion in this nation's history--39 quarters; 32 of those quarters during the Clinton years--the longest uninterrupted period of economic growth in this nation's history, and you had revenue at the same level we are talking about in this plan. Facts are stubborn things. A previous president said that. He was right. The fact is, we had the longest period of uninterrupted growth in our economy during a period in which revenue was at the level we are proposing in this budget. That is a fact.”
Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) argued: “The budget is about fairness, about ensuring that we have a system that is balanced but also investing in the right areas so we have long-term and continued growth. We do not give more tax breaks to corporations and the rich and then put the burden on the backs of seniors, poor kids, working families, disabled. It is unacceptable to put the burden on our most vulnerable population. The budget is truly a moral document. It defines where we are going to go, what we are going to do, and how we are going to look in the next 10 years or 20 years as a country.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) opposed the bill: “No matter what these Democrats tell you, the wealthy and middle class are already shouldering around 100 percent of the nation's tax burden and 51 percent pay absolutely nothing in income taxes. Furthermore, because of this perverse distribution of federal income taxes, there is no way to fix our deficit hole and pay down the debt by increasing taxes on the so-called rich. Here is the bottom line. All of the `let's talk about taxes on the rich' and closing loopholes and going after corporate tax breaks is meant to divert attention from the sad fact that the President's out-of-control spending puts Democrats in a position of having to raise taxes big time on the middle class since they are going to balance the budget without structural reforms to our largest spending programs. Tax increases on the wealthy will not get our Nation to fiscal balance. Even if we let the Bush tax breaks expire from the top income bracket, the total amount raised over 10 years would be $615 billion. That is over 10 years. Yet our deficit this year alone is $1.5 trillion to $1.6 trillion. This is why the issue of tax expenditures is critical. So everybody knows, I made it clear, I thought, in my last remarks that I don't want to tax the truly poor, those who would help themselves if they could. I do not want to tax them. But you can't tell me that 51 percent of all households are the truly poor. I don't want to tax them either, to be honest with you, but it is apparent we are going to have to find a better way of broadening the base of the tax system.”
The Senate agreed to the motion to bring up the “sense of the Senate” bill by a vote of 69-27. Voting “yea” were 51 Democrats and 18 Republicans. 26 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate brought up legislation expressing support for a deficit reduction bill that would require Americans earning at least $1 million per year to pay more in federal taxes.