After Monday’s vote to end debate on the tax bill, the Senate voted 81-19 today to approve a version that extends the 2001-2003 Bush tax cuts for all Americans, retains emergency unemployment benefits, and extends or implements a host of other tax cuts and credits.
Along the way, they voted on a number of amendments. Two of those are particularly helpful in sorting out how senators think.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposed an amendment that would work toward reducing the deficit by eliminating the tax cuts for the wealthest Americans, restoring some of the estate tax cuts made in 2009, and making some other changes designed to protect middle- and low-income Americans. It failed 43-57.
On the other side, an amendment that would help reduce the deficit by requiring cuts to offset the extension of emergency unemployment benefits, proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), failed by a vote of 47-52.
These votes lend themselves to an analysis of senators’ voting patterns. Decide for yourself who’s right and who’s wrong. Just make sure you pay attention, and hold your senators responsible for their decisions.
Senators who are primarily concerned with reducing the deficit would have voted against the compromise. 5 Republicans and 1 Democrat also voted against the Sanders amendment and for the Coburn amendment: (Hagan (D-NC) Sessions (R-AL) Coburn (R-OK) DeMint (R-SC) Voinovich (R-OH) Ensign (R-NV))
Senators who are serious about starting work towards balancing the budget, but would prefer to start by increasing the share paid by the wealthy, would vote against the compromise, but for the Sanders amendment. How many voted that way? Eleven, ten Democrats and Bernie: (Bingaman (D-NM) Lautenberg (D-NJ) Udall (D-NM) Dorgan (D-ND) Leahy (D-VT) Levin (D-MI) Wyden (D-OR) Feingold (D-WI) Merkley (D-OR) Gillibrand (D-NY) Sanders (I-VT))
No senators voted against the compromise bill and for both of the amendments.
Senators who think we can keep giving more away without ever paying for it, or that now is not the time to do any cutting back, would vote for the compromise and against both amendments. There were eight of those, 7 Democrats and Joe Liberman: (Baucus (D-MT) Bennet (D-CO) Nelson (D-FL) Pryor (D-AR) Kohl (D-WI) Lieberman (I-CT) Webb (D-VA) Manchin (D-WV))
Senators who want to start balancing the budget, but only if the wealthy are protected, would vote for the compromise and for the Coburn amendment, but against the Sanders amendment. 41 senators voted that way, 37 Republicans and 4 Democrats: (Alexander (R-TN) Lugar (R-IN) Barrasso (R-WY) McCain (R-AZ) Bayh (D-IN) Enzi (R-WY) McCaskill (D-MO) Bennett (R-UT) Graham (R-SC) McConnell (R-KY) Bond (R-MO) Grassley (R-IA) Murkowski (R-AK) Brown (R-MA) Gregg (R-NH) Risch (R-ID) Brownback (R-KS) Roberts (R-KS) Bunning (R-KY) Hatch (R-UT) Burr (R-NC) Hutchison (R-TX) Shelby (R-AL) Chambliss (R-GA) Inhofe (R-OK) Snowe (R-ME) Isakson (R-GA) Tester (D-MT) Cochran (R-MS) Johanns (R-NE) Thune (R-SD) Collins (R-ME) Kirk (R-IL) Vitter (R-LA) Corker (R-TN) Kyl (R-AZ) Cornyn (R-TX) LeMieux (R-FL) Wicker (R-MS) Crapo (R-ID) Lincoln (D-AR))
Most of the remaining senators voted for the compromise, for the Sanders amendment, and against the Coburn amendment, placing economic stimulus ahead of deficit reduction. That list is left as an exercise for the reader.
Only one senator, Jon Tester (D-MT) voted for the compromise and for both amendments. (Begich (D-AK) voted for the compromise and the Sanders amendment, but skipped the Coburn vote.)
Of course, the reasoning behind each vote probably took other things into consideration, and it was easy to posture by voting for amendments that weren’t going to pass.