THE GREAT AMT DEBATE….Over at The Corner, David Freddoso writes:

The Senate voted last night, 88-5 , to pass a clean one-year Alternative Minimum Tax patch without a tax increase. I am not going to hold my breath until Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias admit that they were completely wrong about the AMT debate, but this proves it. The fact that 88 senators (and all Republicans present) just voted for a “clean” patch, the very second it was offered, is more proof that Democrats have been bottling it up all along with demands that it include tax increase.

This is a very peculiar claim of vindication. The backstory here is that in late November Democrats learned that unless an AMT patch was passed quickly, the IRS wouldn’t have time to reprogram its computers and lots of people would miss getting their refunds on time. So they fast tracked the patch, but Republicans in the Senate held it up unless they were allowed floor votes on some amendments that would have added additional tax cuts to the AMT tax cut. This, of course, was crazy, and the fast tracked bill failed because of it.

Now, more generally, the issue has always been that Democrats want to keep the whole bill revenue neutral: patching AMT will cost revenue, and Democrats want to raise taxes somewhere else to make up for it. Republicans have flatly refused. Not only will the GOP not support tax increases under any circumstances these days, but the AMT debate has made it clear that they won’t even support revenue neutral tax legislation any more. It’s a tax cut or nothing.

So what happened? Answer: Republicans held their breath until their faces turned blue and ended up getting their way. Dems couldn’t find 60 votes to pass a revenue neutral AMT patch, so left with no other choice Harry Reid gave in and agreed to introduce a clean bill. When he did so, naturally it passed. What else would you expect to happen? The only alternative was not passing an AMT patch at all.

How this makes me “completely wrong” is a bit of a mystery, but I guess I’ll let David explain further over at his place. It looks to me like Democrats tried to do the fiscally responsible thing, but Republicans blocked it first with a cynical hold and later with a filibuster threat, and it worked. This doesn’t seem like a great day for the Republic to me, but I guess others will disagree. And they had the votes to make it stick.