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Friday, December 07, 2007

Lost a Battle in the Class War

Jonathan FBD Weisman and Jeffrye Birnbaum write in the Washington Post.

Eleven months after adopting stringent new rules aimed at reining in the federal deficit, the Senate last night shrugged off its pledge of fiscal rectitude and overwhelmingly approved a measure to spare millions of families from the growing reach of the alternative minimum tax without providing an offsetting tax increase.


"We want everyone to know we have tried every alternative possible," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said with a sigh after a House-passed AMT bill, to be paid for largely with tax increases on wealthy Wall Street titans, fell to a Republican filibuster. Just 46 senators, all Democrats, voted to cut off debate on the measure, 14 short of the 60 needed.

So Rangels rough riders have not yet stormed this hill

I don't see why the bill doesn't go to a conference committee which can put the tax increases on the titans back in then go to the Senate for an up or down vote. I must be unaware of some congressional rule.

Of course, 46 votes aren't enough even with no filibuster. However, the role call shows that the Democrats and independents (including Lieberman) were solid. The only no vote was cast by Reid, a traditional vote by the leader of the group that proposes a motion that does not pass, because only Senators who vote no can reintroduce the motion.

Four presidential candidates missed the vote (am I going to have to say I will support the nomination of whichever Senator most nearly takes his or her actual job seriously ?). They would not miss an up or down vote.

Republican hatred for balanced budgets is open.

With paygo breached, Republicans were almost gleeful. "They had painted themselves into a corner," said Sen. John Thune (S.D.). "That's a huge concession on their part, completely repudiating one of their core principles."

Republicans could have claimed that the Democrats forced them to allow an increase in the deficit, because the Democrats did not accept their proposals to cut waste fraud and abuse. They have decided to make it clear that they support deficits instead.

Now Pelosi has a chance to cave. She has promised not to allow a vote on an AMT patch which violates PayGo. I suspect she will eat her words.

I do not understand why the Democrats didn't make the Republicans actually filibuster this one. Delaying the AMT patch and the mailing out of refunds to protect the interests of a small number of hedge fund managers and private equity partners can't be popular can it ? The Democrats seem to have just decided that they will be blamed if the Republicans block them from doing what the public wants. Given the rules of the Senate, if the majority makes it clear that it is willing to cave to get things done on time, the minority can become more powerful than the majority. I really don't see why Reid caved so quickly on this one. A few days of denouncing the Republicans for blocking the AMT patch to serve the super rich who pay 15% of their income in taxes would have made the claim that "we have tried every alternative possible," a lot more convincing.

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