This was a vote on a motion to end debate (known as a “cloture motion”) on legislation expressing support for a deficit reduction bill that would require Americans earning at least $1 million per year to pay more in federal taxes. Specifically, the underlying bill (known as a “sense of the Senate” bill) simply stated: “It is the sense of the Senate that any agreement to reduce the budget deficit should require that those earning $1,000,000 or more per year make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supported the motion to end debate on the “sense of the Senate” bill: “The Republican position on deficit reduction has been extremely clear and is consistent with their rightwing ideology. Despite the fact that our current deficit crisis has been caused by two wars--unpaid for--huge tax breaks that have gone to the wealthiest people in this country, and a recession caused by the deregulation of Wall Street and the lack of revenue coming in as a result of that recession, our Republican friends are adamant that while the richest people in this country are becoming much richer, while today we have the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country, where the top 400 individuals own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans--that gap between the very rich and everybody else is growing wider--our Republican friends say the deficit must be balanced on the backs of working families, the elderly, the sick, and the children. No, the very rich, the top 1 percent, who now earn more income than the bottom 50 percent, should not be asked to contribute one penny more. The Republicans are very clear, despite the fact that corporate profits are soaring, that corporation after corporation is enjoying huge tax loopholes that enable them to make billions of dollars a year in profits and not pay one penny in taxes. Republicans say: Sorry, off the table. Large, profitable corporations, with CEOs making millions a year, don't have to contribute to deficit reduction. Only the children have to contribute, the elderly have to contribute, and only working families, the unemployed, and the sick have to contribute to deficit reduction. We have to balance the budget on the backs of those people. But if you are very rich and getting richer, if you are a profitable corporation, that is off the table. You don't have to contribute a nickel.”
Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) opposed the bill: “Frankly, I can't believe increasing the tax burden on small businesses is even on the radar screen here in Washington. It makes no sense to me. I want to do the opposite. I think we should respond to these terrible unemployment numbers with a pro-growth idea such as a payroll tax deduction for businesses that hire workers. Let's do something constructive, something that adds incentives to actually get our economic engine moving again, especially with the businesses that do it best, which are small businesses. The idea we would raise taxes right now on small businesses is the very definition of being out of touch with the people back home who actually work for a living and who create jobs for others. As I travel back to Massachusetts--and I do that virtually every weekend--I meet with constituents, and I think I have had over 230 or 240 meetings since I have been elected. The biggest question I am always faced with is: What is going on in Washington? Why do you guys always throw a wet blanket over us, with overregulation, overtaxation, creating a lack of stability and certainty? It is not something that is making a lot of sense back home. When I hear from small business people back in Massachusetts, they are worried they can't hire more workers. We need to actually create confidence in our small businesses so they will put people back to work. Instead, we are terrifying them with these tax proposals and a lot of the rhetoric they are hearing here today.”
The vote on the motion to end debate on the “sense of the Senate” bill by a vote of 51-49. While a majority of senators voted in favor of the motion to end debate, such motions require the support for 60 senators for passage. Since the motion did not receive the support of 60 senators, the motion failed. As a result, the Senate effectively killed legislation expressing support for a deficit reduction bill that would require Americans earning at least $1 million per year to pay more in federal taxes.