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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 12/14/2010

Tax cut "no" votes run the ideological spectrum in Senate

By Felicia Sonmez

The Senate's vote yesterday to end debate on the tax-cut deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans represented a major bipartisan accomplishment, with the plan winning support even from the half-dozen Democrats who had railed against it earlier this month.

Even so, 15 senators -- including nine Democrats, five Republicans and one independent -- voted on Monday against advancing the plan.

Their reasons for opposing the package run the political gamut, from Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) claim that tax cuts for wealthy Americans are "unconscionable" to retiring Sen. George Voinovich's (R-Ohio) opposition to an extension of any of the cuts without any serious attempt at comprehensive tax reform.

A number of those voting against the package were Democrats who support extending the cuts for the middle-class but not for upper-earners.

They include Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Carl Levin (Mich.) and Mark Udall (Colo.)

In a statement, Lautenberg said that he "could not vote for this legislation which would plunge America deeper into debt and mortgage the future of our great country so that the wealthiest among us can have tax breaks."

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) voted against ending debate on the tax-cut package because they wanted the cuts to be offset by reduced spending elsewhere in the federal budget.

So did Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who earlier this month was the only Democrat to vote against two Democratic-sponsored proposals that would have extended the cuts for the middle-class and on income of $1 million or less. Feingold said in a statement Monday that he supports a two-year extension of the middle-class tax cuts but voted against the measures because they "[fail] to make even the most modest effort to pay for these tax cuts."

Others such as Voinovich and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had previously stated that they would not support any measure that would increase the federal deficit. DeMint told talkshow host Hugh Hewitt last week that "most of us who ran this election said we were not going to vote for anything that increased the deficit."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who was the last senator to vote (and voted "no"), said through a spokesperson: "We can do better. There was too much new spending, every penny of which would add to the debt."

Two senators, Oregon Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, did not vote due to a prior commitment with the Oregon Leadership Summit in Portland. Merkley stated his opposition to the plan ahead of yesterday's vote, saying that he had "very strong concerns" about the addition of "nearly a trillion dollars to the debt" and the extension of tax-cuts for upper-earners. Wyden had not publicly taken a position on the plan.

By Felicia Sonmez  | December 14, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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