Though President Obama's $445 billion jobs package has virtually no chance for passage, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is warming to the idea now that a 5.6 percent tax on millionaires and billionaires has been tacked onto the bill.
Moderate Democratic senators, skittish about voting for tax increases, are abandoning the bill. But Nelson, a self-proclaimed moderate who is up for re-election in 2012, appears to be standing with the White House and Majority Leader Harry Reid, who proposed the added tax.
"If Senator Nelson had his druthers, he wouldnt have done it this way.He favors allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for everyone making more than $1 million a year.But it all comes out about the same under Senator Reids plan," Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin told Sunshine State News.
"So he's inclined to support it."
Nelson has bounced back and forth on the tax issue. On Monday, McLaughlin noted critically that the Obama bill "has some things [Nelson] voted against before, like increasing income tax rates on people who make more than $200,000 a year."
But 10 months ago, the two-term senator voted for cloture on a bill that would have let the Republican tax cuts expire on individual incomes over $200,000 and joint filers making $250,000. Senate records show Nelson joined 51 other Democrats in that vote on Dec. 4, 2010.
According to a Congressional Record compilation of his votes since he entered the Senate in 2001, Nelson has voted to raise taxes "at least 143 times."
In contrast to Florida's Nelson, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., roundly rejects any tax increases at a time when businesses and the economy are struggling.
No, no, no. This is a time to be cutting. The cutting stops when the taxes increase," Nelson told The Hill last week.
Likewise, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., told Politico: "We shouldnt increase taxes on ordinary income. There are other ways to get there.
Public opinion polls indicate varying degrees of support for higher taxes on the wealthy, but Republicans adamantly oppose any tax hikes. Democratic defections will doom the jobs bill in the Senate, where a GOP filibuster would require 60 votes for passage.
The government spending in the original jobs bill -- now with an added 5.6 percent tax surcharge on filers earning more than $1 million -- is a deal killer, declared Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
"There won't be enough votes to pass this bill," he predicted. "We're not going to vote for bad legislation just because the president wants us to.
"We're not going to pass a job killer that raises taxes in the middle of a recession," McConnell told Fox News on Thursday night.
But with Obama repeatedly insisting that lawmakers "pass this bill," McConnell dared Majority Leader Reid to bring it to a vote.
Reid, knowing that Obama's plan had little prospect of passage, had bottled it up in committee, and dismissed McConnell's maneuver as "political gamesmanship." Yet two days later, Reid, D-Nev., proposed adding the millionaire tax and said he would put the bill on track for a vote.
But still more partisan wrangling Thursday night cast doubt on the timetable. Using the Senate's arcane procedural rules, Reid continues to delay action in an ongoing game of legislative chicken.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., put the situation in perspective on Friday, saying, "The president's jobs plan is not a serious plan, and I suspect that's exactly why Senate Democrats want to avoid voting on it at all costs."
The question before Bill Nelson is a simple one -- does he support his liberal party leaders proposal to pass a massive tax hike in order to pay for yet another massive spending bill? said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Jahan Wilcox.
"With nearly 1 million unemployed Floridians, the last thing the Sunshine State needs is businesses paying more money to the federal government, when it could allocate those resources toward hiring new employees.
Given the fact that Senator Nelson voted 98 percent of the time with President Obama last year, Florida taxpayers shouldnt hold their breath. But the question is, when will Senator Nelson make clear exactly where he stands? Wilcox asked.
GOP National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus maintained that "Republicans have been willing to work with the president since day one to find common ground on his proposal. Yet President Obama continues to delay action by insisting on an all-or-nothing approach so he can campaign against Congress on the taxpayers dime."
Priebus said September's "disappointing jobs report underscores why President Obamas Stimulus 2.0 is not the answer to put Americans back to work."
"After putting $825 billion on the nations credit card, only to have 32 straight months of unemployment at 8 percent or above, it is remarkable that the president would double down on the same policies at the tune of nearly half a trillion dollars in more stimulus spending."
McConnell said Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky will introduce an alternative jobs bill next week.
Declining to provide details, McConnell said, "It will not include any government borrowing or spending."
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or at (772) 801-5341.