Reid’s tax strategy takes shape

REID’S TAX STRATEGY TAKES SHAPE…. Yesterday, House Democrats signaled their support for a lame-duck tax strategy: vote on the middle-class-first policy originally proposed by President Obama. But what about the Senate? We’re starting to get a sense of what the leadership has in mind there, too.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has adopted a hardball strategy for dealing with Republicans on the expiring Bush-era tax cuts.

Reid will force a vote on extending tax cuts for families earning below $250,000 and individuals below $200,000 that would allow tax rates on the wealthy to expire. But it’s not clear whether that vote will be on a permanent or temporary extension because of a split in the Democratic caucus, a notable change since the election.

Senate Republicans, of course, want their policy — a permanent extension of all Bush-era rates — to be brought to the floor for consideration. Reid, confident it wouldn’t pass, is happy to hold just a vote. But the Democratic leadership would then also hold votes on Democratic alternatives, focused more on permanent breaks for the middle class, not the wealthy.

“We want an opportunity and — and we mean plural — to vote once, twice, whatever it takes to show the American people that we support the middle class,” Reid told reporters late yesterday. He added there could be “multiple variations” on how to proceed on the cuts for wealthier Americans, presumably including temporary extensions.

For Reid and Democrats, part of the goal is to get Senate Republicans on record trying to kill a permanent extension of middle-class tax cuts. At this point, that seems pretty likely.

But one major unknown hangs over all of this: what will senators do if/when all of these plans come up short? As has been the case, this is easier in the House — for a few more weeks, the Democratic majority may be large enough to push the smart middle-class-first plan and pass it. In the Senate, however, Dems are already less united around a single approach — about a half-dozen Democrats are on board with the Republicans’ “compromise” of extending all of the cuts temporarily — which makes it that much more difficult to pass a Democratic plan.

Looking ahead, then, the most likely scenario is that Reid will bring up the GOP plan, and it’ll fail, at which point Reid will bring up the Democratic plan (the one favored by the House), and it’ll fail, too.

What’s Plan B? No one seems to have the foggiest idea.

All of this is poised to come up the week after Thanksgiving.