(Bloomberg) The U.S. Senate won't pass an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts before the November 2 elections, second-ranking Democrat Dick Durbin said today.
"The reality is we're not going to pass" the tax cuts before the election," said Durbin of Illinois. He blamed politics, saying "we are so tightly wound up in this campaign" that a bipartisan agreement to act won't be reached.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said "it's clear there aren't 60 votes for any proposal, so no proposal is going to pass at this point."
Sixty votes would be needed for a tax-cut extension to advance in the Senate.
Durbin and Conrad made their comments to reporters as they emerged from a closed-door meeting of Senate Democrats on the issue.
"No bill was presented" on the tax cuts, said Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat.
Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, all tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 will expire December 31, triggering higher rates on income and investment earnings for all taxpayers.
Both parties want to extend the cuts for individual income up to $200,000 and up to $250,000 for couples filing jointly. That covers about 97% of all taxpayers, according to data from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Republicans want to keep the cuts for those in the higher income brackets, which President Barack Obama opposes.
A vote on the extension issue will occur before January 1, said Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat. "We will have a vote and have the fight before the end of the year," she said, with the date set by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Democrats "are very committed to extending the middle- class tax cuts but not the top rates because that hasn't created jobs," Stabenow said.
Obama has called it "irresponsible" for Congress to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it would cost $700 billion in government revenue when lawmakers are looking to rein in deficits.
"I can't give tax cuts to the top 2% of Americans" and "lower the deficit at the same time," he said September 20 during a town hall discussion on jobs and the economy on CNBC television.