The Senate approved President Barack Obama's tax plan as House leaders worked to fend off liberal critics from derailing its final passage.
The Senate vote, 81-19, on Wednesday, was a resounding endorsement of the compromise President Obama struck with GOP leaders just two weeks ago. The package would extend current income and investment tax rates for two years, resurrect a lapsed program of unemployment benefits, cut payroll taxes temporarily and reinstate the estate tax.
"Whether you agree with all the contents of the bill or not, everyone should understand this is one of the major accomplishments of any Congress where two parties, ideologically divided, have agreed on a major issue," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).
Floor debate in the House is expected today. Democratic leaders Wednesday tried to set ground rules that would allow persistent critics of the bill's estate-tax provisions to voice opposition without killing the bill. Those critics, many of whom remain unhappy with President Obama's concessions on upper-income taxpayers, want to raise the estate-tax rate and make it apply to more inheritances.
An unchanged bill would clear the way for the House to hold a final vote on the bill and send it to President Obama for his signature, two weeks before the Dec. 31 expiration date of the Bush-era income tax cuts.