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Senate Republicans Block Debate on Buffett Rule Senate Republicans Block Debate on Buffett Rule

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Congress / CONGRESS

Senate Republicans Block Debate on Buffett Rule

The measure guaranteeing a minimum tax on income over $1 million fails but Democrats vow to keep trying

photo of Dan  Friedman
April 16, 2012

Senate Republicans have blocked debate on a bill to force people who earn more than $1 million a year to pay a 30 percent minimum tax rate, in what Democrats said will be the first of many votes this year on the so-called Buffett rule.

Democrats acknowledged that the failed cloture vote, scheduled to coincide with tax day, is symbolic. But they defended it as demonstrating a key difference between the parties to voters. 

“There is an emerging contrast in Congress” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who heads Senate Democrats policy and messaging shop, said Monday in a call with reporters. “Republicans want to give even further tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, while we think the very wealthy should share in more sacrifice.”

 

Schumer said Senate Democrats plan repeated votes on the rule named after legendary investor Warren Buffett who has asked why he should have a lower tax rate than his secretary. Like today’s vote, Democrats will promote the Buffett rule and similar measures in coordination with the White House and President Obama’s reelection campaign.

51 Democrats votes to end debate. 45 Republicans votes to stymie a vote on the Buffett rule. Senate Republicans have been aggressive in their use of the filibuster and this latest move reflects that. 

“We’re going to come back to the issue repeatedly,” he said.

For his part, President Obama weighed in shortly after the vote. "The Buffett Rule is common sense. At a time when we have significant deficits to close and serious investments to make to strengthen our economy, we simply cannot afford to keep spending money on tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and didn’t ask for." 

Republicans denounced the proposal as divisive, bad policy, a waste of time and an electoral gimmick.

“President Obama looked at the options in front of him, sat down with his political advisors, and he said, ‘You know what, let’s go with the poll-tested tax increase on investment and job creation that won’t fix anything and won’t pass anyway, instead of actually doing something about the debt and the deficit,’” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday.

For all of the drama surrounding the measure, it was always unlikely to make a big dent in the federal deficit. Some 217,000 persons would be affected by the measure, according to the Tax Policy Center and they'd pay an average of $190,000 in additional taxes although as Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution has noted it would bring in "more money than such steps as raising the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 when measured against a realistic, current policy baseline."

According to Gallup surveys, 60 percent of American support the rule. Even 43 percent of Republicans weighed in in favor.  

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