This month, in their lame duck session, Congress voted to extend all the Bush-era tax cuts, as well as extending unemployment insurance benefits and reducing the estate tax. Many progressives considered the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts a line in the sand. This tax policy has coincided with rising poverty levels, skyrocketing unemployment, rising rates of foreclosures, soaring public and private debt, an increase in the gap between the very rich and the poor, and a shrinking middle class. It is hard to argue that the tax cuts, which were originally sold as a way to stimulate the economy and benefit everyone, have worked. Yet, because they benefit a very small minority of households who have seen their wealth and incomes increase dramatically during the past terrible ten years for the economy, they were pushed through by President Obama and a majority of Democrats.
In the Senate, Bernie Sanders (D-VT) filibustered against the deal for nearly nine hours (Filibernie's Greatest Hits, Mother Jones, Dec 10, 2010). But, in the end, the measure passed the Senate 83-15, with 45 Democrats and 37 Republicans voting in favor. Nine Democrats and five Republicans voted no; two Senators did not vote. New Jersey's Democratic Senators split on this issue, with Menendez voting yes and Lautenberg voting no. Senator Sanders had introduced an amendment that would have let the tax cuts expire for income over $250,000 and would have used half the revenue for deficit reduction and half for infrastructure projects. Every Republican representative voted against the amendment, along with 15 Democrats. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was a co-sponsor of the Sanders amendment.
In the House, the measure passed 277-148; 112 Democrats and 38 Republicans voted no. Donald Payne (D-NJ) voted no while Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) voted yes.