Why the Bush tax cuts won't need 60 votes
When Democrats regained Congress in 2006, they tried to draw a contrast between their fiscal responsibility and the free-spending ways of the Republicans by forcing themselves to live under PAYGO rules. That meant, in the absence of 60 votes to waive the rule, non-emergency spending or tax cuts would have to be paid for. No increasing the deficit to get what you want.
Except when it comes to the Bush tax cuts for people making less than $250,000. As Ryan Donmoyer explains, those are exempt from PAYGO, though the high-income tax cuts aren't:
Budget rules adopted by Congress earlier this year allow lawmakers to extend them without offsetting revenue increases. That's a huge break: Keeping the cuts for the 130 million households earning less than $250,000 will cost about $255 billion a year.
There is no similar budgetary escape hatch that would let Republicans extend the tax cuts for the wealthy. They must find $55 billion in revenue to make up for the cost of keeping top marginal rates at 35 percent and dividends and capital gains taxes at 15 percent, among other reductions.
PAYGO, however, can be waived with 60 votes, so if Republicans can find 19 Democrats willing to vote to extend the tax cuts for the rich without any offsets, they can pass them.
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