Senate Republicans Shoot Down Debate on ‘Buffett Rule’

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman and CEO Warren E. Buffett smiles at the New York Stock Exchange before ringing the opening bell on September 30, 2011 in New York City. U.S. President Barack Obama's new plan for a higher tax rate for millionaires has been dubbed the "Buffett Rule" in reference to the billionaire investor, who supports the plan.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Buffett. Photo: Mario Tama/2011 Getty Images

The Senate voted on Monday by a margin of 51-45 to block further debate on the Democrats' "Buffett Rule," thereby preventing it from reaching a decisive vote. Sixty votes were required to advance the motion. Named for that really rich guy from Omaha who's complained that the tax code, as written, forces his secretary to pay a higher tax rate than he does, the Buffett Rule would require taxpayers earning more than $1 million a year (including proceeds from capital gains and dividends) to pay at least a 30 percent federal tax rate.

With the exception of Maine's Susan Collins, all Senate Republicans voted to oppose proceeding with the bill. And minus Mark Pryor of Arkansas, all Senate Democrats voted for the motion to advance debate on the Senator Sheldon Whitehouse–sponsored bill (D-R.I.)

According to a recent CNN/International survey released Monday, 72 percent of Americans favor the "Buffet Rule." Nine in ten Democrats support the bill, as do nearly seven in ten independent voters. And more than half of Republicans approve the measure, too.

But this vote was a formality within the Senate, political jockeying as both sides dig in to win the tax argument in an election year.

“President Obama looked at the options in front of him, sat down with his political advisers, 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.

Lest McConnell stretch his imagination too far, Obama released a statement appealing to "basic fairness" after the Senate 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.  But it’s also about basic fairness – it’s just plain wrong that millions of middle-class Americans pay a higher share of their income in taxes than some millionaires and billionaires. America prospers when we’re all in it together and everyone has the opportunity to succeed.