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Posted at 4:46 PM ET, 12/ 2/2010

Va. Democrats split on tax vote

By Ben Pershing

Updated 5:40 p.m.
Rep. Gerald Connolly (Va.) voted with the vast majority of his fellow Democrats on Thursday to approve a bill that would extend middle-class tax cuts, hours after the Northern Virginia lawmaker opposed his party on a procedural vote.

Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) voted against both the bill and the procedural question -- because he believes all of the tax cuts should expire -- while Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) opposed the bill but supported his party on the earlier vote.

The measure that passed the House Thursday on a 234 to 188 vote would maintain existing tax rates on income up to $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for married couples, while letting Bush-era tax cuts for wealthier Americans expire at the end of the year. Connolly -- whose Fairfax-based 11th district has the highest median income of any congressional district in the country -- has said publicly that he wants to extend all of the tax cuts.

Because Democratic leaders declined to allow a vote on a full extension, Connolly and Moran joined 31 other Democrats in taking the relatively rare step Thursday of voting against the rule governing debate on the tax bill. Members typically stick with their party on rule votes, regardless of how they feel about the underlying legislation.

But some moderate Democrats believe they should have at least been allowed to offer an amendment to temporarily extend tax cuts for the wealthy. In a letter to Democratic leaders Thursday, Connolly and Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said, "A one-year extension of all income tax rates and a permanent extension for individuals making under $200,000 and families making under $250,000 would provide certainty while still being fiscally responsible."

Speaking to reporters after the vote on the rule Thursday, Connolly said that while Democratic leaders believe "the upper brackets don't deserve a tax cut ... the economic argument is that it's the wrong time to raise taxes on the upper income bracket."

But in the end, Connolly and the three co-authors of the letter all voted in favor of the bill only extending the middle-class tax cuts. Connolly said his vote was "not inconsistent" with his position that he would prefer an extension for all, a final outcome that may occur as President Obama and Senate Democrats negotiate with Republicans for a final deal.

Moran and Scott, meanwhile, were among the 20 Democrats who voted against the measure on the floor Thursday.

"Today, the House voted to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts on incomes under $250,000," Moran said in a press release Thursday. "At a cost of three trillion dollars, I could not in good conscience vote for the permanent extension of a tax structure so fiscally unsustainable."

Lame-duck Democratic Reps. Tom Perriello, Glenn Nye and Rick Boucher voted for the tax bill, while all five of Virginia's GOP House members voted against it.

By Ben Pershing  | December 2, 2010; 4:46 PM ET
Categories:  Ben Pershing, Gerald E. Connolly, Glenn Nye, James P. Moran Jr., Rick Boucher, Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, Tom Perriello  
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