U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) failed in a last-minute effort to eliminate tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans contained in a compromise tax package he faux filibustered on Friday.
Sanders took to the Senate floor Friday in a daylong speech that made him into an overnight Internet folk hero among the political left — leading some fans to create a Bernie for President in 2012 website.
His faux filibuster, however, had little effect on his colleagues. In a procedural vote late Monday, the Senate approved the tax cut compromise by an 83-15 margin.
Sanders' amendment would have allowed the tax breaks, ushered under Pres. George W. Bush, to expire for the top two percent of wage earners on schedule. The amendment would have also redirected the money from these tax increases to reduce the deficit and invest in the nation's infrastructure.
In the end, 43 senators voted in favor of Sanders' amendment.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), who is leading the effort in the House to fight extending tax cuts to the wealthy, is talking with House leadership tonight in an attempt to get an up or down vote on a similar amendment when the House takes up the tax package tomorrow.
Earlier this week, Welch called attempts to change the bill "futile" given its broad support, but plans to push ahead anyway along with the help of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). Last week, 53 Democrats signed onto a letter penned by Welch asking House leaders to reject extending tax cuts for the wealthy.
“We made an impressive showing for a stronger and fairer proposal that would create more jobs, lower the debt, and do more for Social Security than the deal brokered by the White House and congressional Republicans,” Sanders said in a statement. “The fact that we got 43 votes in opposing the president and Republican leadership indicates great discontent with the course we are embarking on.”
Sanders was one of 19 senators to vote against the final bill. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also voted against the legislation.
Sanders' proposal would have also replaced the "Payroll Tax Holiday" with a one-year extension of the "Make Work Pay Credit." Sanders believes the payroll tax cut will weaken Social Security.
Sanders told Seven Days on Monday that the payroll tax cut would suck $112 billion from Social Security.
"The truth is that it is a very good thing for the economy if we can put money directly into the hands of working people, but we did that in the stimulus bill last year when we gave each taxpayer $400," said Sanders. "We shouldn't be doing this at the expense of Social Security — it's like taking money out of your retirement account."
Sanders said the payroll tax cut, touted by Pres. Barack Obama, was originally a Republican concept which the junior senator believes is aimed at weakening Social Security.
On Tuesday during a 12-minute speech Sanders asked his "Republican friends" to admit publicly that their long-term goal is to weaken Social Security and this is one way to do it.
The Sanders amendment also proposed to eliminate the Kyl-Lincoln estate tax proposal in the underlying bill and insert the 2009 estate tax rates for two years. This would have exempted the first $3.5 million of an estate from taxation and impose a 45 percent estate tax rate on the value of estates valued at greater than $3.5 million.
Sanders' amendment would have also provided a $250 cost-of-living adjustment for more than 57 million American senior citizens, veterans and persons with disabilities.
Sanders' amendment would have kept intact the following provisions in the bill:
- An extension of middle class tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans;
- An extension of unemployment insurance for 13 months; and,
- An extension of the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, and college tax credit expansions.