The Senate returns from a two-week recess Monday to tee off a fight over inequality, GOP anti-tax absolutism and the budget that will persist until Election Day.
After months of build-up, the Senate will vote on legislation that enshrines the “Buffett Rule” — the principle that no one who makes more than $1 million a year should pay a lower effective tax rate than an average, middle-class American.
The bill is set to fail, on a party-line vote, thanks to a Republican filibuster — and thus illustrate to voters where the two parties’ priorities truly lie.
The legislation itself works much like the existing Alternative Minimum Tax — except it’s for people who make over $1 million a year. With some exceptions, they would be required to pay 30 percent of their income to the federal government, if loopholes, expenditures and benefits in the existing tax code bring their burden below that level. The current top marginal rate is 35 percent. It was 39.6 percent under President Clinton and 28 percent under President Reagan.
The back story to the Buffett Rule — and the press corps’ jaundiced treatment of it — is here. Voting for the rule would explicitly violate the anti-tax pledge nearly every Republican lawmaker has taken. As such, the GOP is attacking it in myriad ways, and even endangered moderates, such as Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), are expected to oppose it.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.