The vote began at 6:05 ET and as of an hour later they’re still holding it open, so we’ll have to wait for the final tally. The outcome isn’t in doubt but I’m curious to see if anyone from either party crossed the aisle. If ever Democrats could expect a lockstep vote from their caucus it, this is it. New from CNN, the breakdown when adults are asked whether they support a 30 percent minimum tax on people who earn more than a million dollars per year:
Majorities across the board say yes — including among Republicans. Is that enough of a nudge to get squishes like Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski to vote yay for a lame populist pander that does almost nothing to reduce the deficit? We’ll find out any minute now. My own take on this is that, while swing voters are happy to support higher taxes on the rich when asked, they simply don’t care much. Ask them about jobs and gas prices and their eyes light up; ask them about this and you’ll get a diffident “yeah, I guess.” For a contrarian take, though, read Jazz Shaw’s response this past weekend urging conservatives not to underestimate the powerful appeal of a “fairness” narrative. I personally can’t imagine a scenario where the economy slogs along but voters decide to roll the dice on four more years anyway because O promises to squeeze a few extra pennies out of millionaires, but we’ll see.
Either way, bear in mind that this issue is simply a skirmish in the wider war to come over letting the Bush tax cuts lapse. I’m not sure, in fact, why O bothered with a gimmick like this when he could have spent the last few months making the case for those tax hikes instead. It’s the same basic argument — the rich need to pay their “fair share” — but in that case, he’d at least be able to point to trillions in new revenue to support his position. That is to say, there’s a fiscal argument to be made for killing the Bush tax cuts. The only argument to be made for the Buffett Rule, really, is moral based on an arbitrary definition of “fairness.” Why fight a battle like that on unfavorable ground? Maybe, I guess, just to force the GOP into voting it down so that you’ve got an extra little talking point for the campaign.
While we wait, here’s an RNC tribute to The One’s artistry in excuse-making. Add tonight’s vote on the “Buffett Rule,” a red herring on serious fiscal reform if ever there was one, to this list.
Update: The vote was 51/45. Stand by for the roll.
Update: As promised, here’s the roll. Straight party line — with two very predictable exceptions. Belated exit question: Why didn’t Scott Brown vote yes? Elizabeth Warren’s going to bludgeon him with this. Either he strongly agrees with me that the Buffett Rule is an electoral nothingburger or he’s being a surprisingly loyal party soldier this time.