Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Michigan Senators Split Tax Vote

Aaaargh. This is maddening.

First up, Senator Stabenow.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, said while she worries about continuing current tax rates for wealthier Americans, she's more concerned about what will happen to middle-class wage earners if tax rates go up on everyone - as they will without action by years' end - and extended unemployment benefits that expired two weeks ago aren't put back in place. Some 45,000 Michiganders will lose unemployment benefits if the program is not reinstituted before the end of the month; more than 181,000 state residents stand to lose theirs by the end of April without an extension.

Those benefits, said Stabenow, are "the only lifeline thousands of Michigan families have right now."

Been there, done that, couldn't afford the t-shirt. Totally understand the reasoning here; wish they would have included the 99ers (which Stabenow introduced legislation for) and/or made it for two years - not to mention the renewable energy provisions and other little tidbits that would make this a bit more palatable.

Next up with the flip-side, here is Senator Levin.

Joining those voting against ending debate was Michigan's Carl Levin, also a Democrat, who said while he supports keeping tax rates in place for middle-class earners and reinstating the unemployment benefits, the tax cut package was too skewed toward higher wage earners and should have been open to debate and amendment.

"There is no reason why those of us who oppose portions of this legislation should not have the opportunity to air our objections, propose remedies to them and place them before the Senate," he said in a prepared statement. "But the procedure under which the senate will consider this bill will apparently not allow us to do so."

Allowing such a process, however, could have upended the deal Obama worked out with Republicans, who had already showed they have the votes in the Senate to block the Democrats' attempts to pass legislation which would extend current tax rates on everyone except individuals making $200,000 a year and couples making $250,000, who would have seen their rates go up.

And therein lies the problem that dare not speak its name on cable TV. While the Democrats run in circles, the Republicans get away with this bad behavior once again. Media Matters Eric Boehlert strikes a refrain that is all too familiar to anyone who has watched how our Michigan Senate has operated for the past two years.

I’ve been noting this for months now: The GOP’s Obama-era brand of hyper-partisanship and obstructionist voting patterns has no precedent in modern American history. None.

And you know why that is? It’s because in the past when in the party out of power tried to systematically obstruct the will of the majority, they’d catch holy hell for it in the press and from commentators. Meaning, there was a downside to trying to hold Congress hostage.

But not for today’s GOP. And Republican leaders know it. The Beltway press has mostly turned a blind, non-judgmental eye while the GOP has re-written the rules for governing from the minority. Yes, the press covers many of the votes that Republicans stymie. But there’s little or no media debate about what the Republican Party is actually doing, which is practicing obstructionism on a massive and previously unseen scale.

That’s not normal and it’s about time the lapdog Beltway press corps awoke form its current coma and started calling the radicalism by its proper name.

So what do we do about this, kids? Watching the Democratic Party chew itself to bits is counter-productive to say the least - but I'm not sure what can be done to stop it. I don't like the deal overall, but I want the good (and necessary) stuff contained within - and it simply won't happen without the ransom because the Republicans are obviously not interested in good governance. Ever. And no one seems concerned about that.

This will probably pass and we will move on from here, but it certainly is setting the tone for what is to come - a very bumpy next two years that will see even more division in the Dem ranks if this keeps up.