Senate Up/Down Vote on Taxes (Don't get too excited.)
The Hill is reporting that Senate Republicans have agreed to let Senator Democratic Leader Harry Reid's S. 3412: Middle Class Tax Cut Act, get an up-or-down, "simple majority" vote in the Senate. In return, Reid will do the same for S. 3417, introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch. Don't get too excited.
Yes, this does means that there is agreement to let 50 votes be the margin for passage instead of holding out for the 60-vote cloture exercise normally required to move a bill in the Senate. But it's complicated.
That's right. Even if the bill passes the Senate, it would most likely be "blue-slipped" -- a procedure by which any House Member can attach a blue form explaining that the bill violates the Origination Clause of the Constitution.
Article 1 , Section 7 of the Constitution states, “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives." According to Wikipedia , this dates back to the English parliamentary system, to ensure that the “power of the purse” remains with the House of the People (the House of Commons) and in the U.S. the House of Representatives. The specific clause was part of the Great “Connecticut Compromise” of the 1787 Constitutional Convention between big and small states.
So what happens if a revenue-raising measure that orginates in the Senate actually passes the Senate, passes the House AND is signed into law, despite the Origination clause issue?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a Senate bill that became law. The recent Supreme Court Case, NFIB v. Sebelieus, found that the bill is based on Congressional taxing authority... but no mention of the Origination Clause. So, if a Senate tax bill makes it through the Legsilative and Executive branch gauntlets, maybe the Judicial Branch is happy to just let it go too.
UPDATE (7/25): The votes were held with Vice President Biden presiding as President, on hand to break a possible tie. The final votes were:
- S. 3417 "A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986..." (Hatch) - failed 45 AYE, 54 NO
- S. 3412: Middle Class Tax Cut Act (Reid) - passed 51 AYE, 48 NO
So, now S. 3412 goes to the House.
UPDATE 2 (7/26): Looks like a vote will happen in the House:
The Hill's Russell Berman reports:
Boehner said the House would vote on the Democratic bill alongside a measure that would extend the entire slate of George W. Bush-era tax rates.
“If our Democrat colleagues want to offer the president’s plan or the Senate Democrat plan, we’re more than happy to give them the vote,” Boehner said during his weekly Capitol press conference.