On Wednesday, Senate Democrats voted against an extension of the Bush tax cuts. The Republican proposal failed by a 45-54 vote.
Instead, Democrats ended up passing a tax increase on incomes above $250,000. The vote passed 51-48, mostly along party lines with Democrats Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), who is retiring, and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK), voting against the tax increase.
Knowing the vote would be close, Vice President Joe Biden presided over the Senate, in case his vote was needed to break a tie.
Measures that raise revenue for the federal government are supposed to originate in the House, and the House will vote on a measure next week to extend virtually all of the Bush tax cuts.
The vote occured because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) consented to an up-or-down vote. The Senate had been scheduled to hold procedural votes, which would have needed 60 votes to advance. However, McConnell, on the Senate floor, said he allowed for the up-or-down votes to put vulnerable Senate Democrats on the record in support of tax increases.
McConnell was referring to Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Bill Nelson (D-FL), all of whom are up for reelection in November and supported the tax increases.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) disagreed with McConnell's strategy, believing the tax increase will help Democrats in tough races. According to The Hill, Durbin disclosed Democrats have tested the phrase, “The top 2 percent of wage earners pay their fair share,” and intend to run on that message in the fall.