Updated, 10:48 p.m.
Senate Democrats braced for a pair of showdown votes on tax cuts scheduled for Saturday after Republicans backed away from a deal for a more orderly treatment of the tax cut issue late Thursday night.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to charge ahead against likely filibusters on two Democratic proposals, one that would extend the soon-to-expire tax cuts for middle-class taxpayers and another that would extend the cuts for those making up to $1 million.
The Nevada Democrat told reporters Thursday night that he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had struck a deal to hold votes Friday on four proposals — the two Democratic proposals, the GOP’s full extension plan and a five-year extension that also included a one-year extension to unemployment insurance.
Pointing to the GOP’s letter earlier this week threatening to block anything not related to taxes or the federal budget, Reid said, “We have a new one tonight: They’re not going to let us do anything on tax cuts or funding the government.” A short while later, though, the Senate approved by unanimous consent a continuing resolution that would keep the government funded through Dec. 18.
Although Reid was clearly agitated — at one point he quipped that the GOP’s unemployment proposal was paid for with “a fund that probably doesn’t even exist” — he went to great pains not to blame McConnell personally.
“He did his best to get an agreement. It’s my understanding it’s one Senator,” Reid said.
Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) agreed, arguing that the deal between Reid and McConnell “was an effort to maintain the era of good feelings started at the White House earlier this week, and at least one Republican Senator didn’t get the telegram.”
A GOP aide confirmed that Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) opposed the deal.
But McConnell was not so conciliatory, dismissing the original deal as a political ploy in a statement.
“All 42 Senate Republicans and a growing chorus of Democrats oppose the effort to raise taxes on anyone. So let’s stop wasting time on political show-votes and focus on our priorities. It’s time to get serious. It’s time to extend the current tax rates and fund the government while cutting spending. Every day spent on a political show-vote, is another day that Democrats won’t be able to debate items that should actually pass,” he said.