Senate Democrats want middle-class tax cut vote

By Jennifer Liberto, senior writer

WASHINGTON ( -- Senate Democrats are aiming to force a vote extending tax breaks for the middle class -- and not for those in the top income bracket -- before they adjourn for the midterm elections.

But it's not clear the vote will happen; and it depends on Democrats working out a procedural deal with Republicans, two aides and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Tuesday.

If the vote happens, it will likely be a test vote on extending tax cuts - now slated to expire at the end of the year - for families earning less than $250,000 and individuals earning less than $200,000.

At this point, the chances of such a measure passing look slim.

Republicans have stood firm on supporting extensions of the 2001 and 2003 tax breaks for all taxpayers. Democrats need one Republican to support their more limited tax break extension and to avoid a filibuster blocking the issue.

President Obama has argued that the nation can't afford the extra $700 billion tab to extend tax breaks for those in the top income bracket. But moderate Republicans, even though they're also worried about deficits, maintain that tax breaks should be extended at least temporarily for all.

"Changing tax policy in the middle of the recession is just not a good thing to do," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who said he would support a two-year extension of tax breaks for all taxpayers. "In the interim, let's figure out a way to get our spending in line."

If Senate Democrats find a way to make the vote happen for middle-class tax breaks, it'll happen soon. The Democrats are contemplating an early return to the campaign trail, at the end of next week, Durbin said.

Senate Democrats and President Obama would like a vote on middle class tax breaks before lawmakers return to the campaign trail to reinforce Democratic support for pocketbook issues.

Moderate Republicans, Democrats Ben Nelson, of Nebraska and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and independent Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut have indicated support for temporarily extending all tax cuts, even for the wealthiest, to help juice up the sputtering economic recovery.

-- CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report. To top of page

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