This was a procedural vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation extending tax cuts (which were enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush) for middle class taxpayers, but allowing tax cuts for wealthy individuals and families to expire.
If passed, this particular procedural motion -- known as the “previous question" -- effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
In 2011, the tax cuts signed into law by President Bush in 2001 and 2003 were scheduled to expire. Democrats supported extending tax cuts for middle class taxpayers, arguing that middle-income earners should not face a tax hike during a recession. (This particular recession began in 2008, and had persisted for more than two years). Many Democrats, however, objected to extending tax cuts for the wealthy. Republicans meanwhile, insisted that the Bush-era tax cuts be extended for all Americans. President Obama had urged Congress to pass legislation extending tax cuts only for middle class Americans.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “…Today we have the opportunity to do the right thing and put American workers ahead of millionaires and billionaires….Today we can focus on economic growth to help those who are suffering from this recession and to provide permanent, equitable tax relief for the middle class. These should not be controversial positions….The economic growth that all Americans can share in ought to be a top priority for every elected official, and lowering the tax burden for working families shouldn't be any kind of a partisan fight.”
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) urged opposition to the resolution and the underlying bill: “The bottom line is, by resorting to legerdemain, we are going to end up increasing taxes on working Americans….Any member of this House who votes in favor of this measure is voting to increase taxes on the men and women in this country who are out there saving, investing, and working to create jobs for our fellow Americans, and it is just plain wrong.”
The House agreed to the previous question motion by a vote of 224-186. 224 Democrats – including all progressives present – voted “yea.” All 169 Republicans present and 17 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation extending tax cuts for middle class taxpayers, but allowing tax cuts for wealthy individuals and families to expire.