Buoyed by a feisty State Of The Union address and seeing a juicy target in Mitt Romney's tax returns, Senate Democrats announced Wednesday that they plan to force votes on key parts of the president's platform, including the goal of ensuring that millionaires pay at least a 30 percent income tax rate.
In fact, the so-called Buffett Rule, named after financier Warren Buffett, who allegedly pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, may soon have a new name.
"So, it's a priority for us to act on some kind of Romney—I mean, Buffett rule," said Democratic New York Sen. Charles Schumer. It was not a mistake.
Romney released his tax returns Tuesday, showing that despite earning more than $40 million total in 2010 and 2011, he paid an effective tax rate of about 14 percent—because most of the money was classified as capital gains, not income.
"Don't be surprised if election year pressures in 2012 may push Republicans to cooperate with this president more than they might be planning to," Schumer said. "We intend to test this theory out, by pursuing major chunks of the president's middle-class agenda."
But Schumer and other Democrats have let to lay out exactly how they'll try to achieve the goals set out by the president. Available options include letting the capital gains tax increase, capping deductions for high-income Americans, or maybe setting up a stronger alternative tax which the rich would have to pay if their taxes dip too low.
The strategy of using forced votes to push the issue—which are unlikely to become law, but would put the GOP on the spot—is a somewhat different strategy than House Democrats have pursued. Rep. Sander Levin, an influential Michigan Democrat, had advocated using the payroll tax cut debate as a way to push through higher taxes on the super-rich. But on Wednesday, Reid said that strategy might be a mistake.
"Realistically, I don't think that's the place to do tax reform," Reid said.
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