Today, the Senate took two votes. The first was to extend the Bush tax cuts on income of less than $250,000 a year. The second vote was similar, but raised the income threshold to $1 million.
Since the Republicans say they will filibuster both bills, the votes were technically to limit debate and so under Senate rules required at least 60 votes, but the Democrats only got 53 votes.
Yes, the Republicans would not even compromise on tax breaks on income less than $1 million a year. Note that even people earning more than $1 million a year would have benefited from this, since the first $1 million of their income would have been taxed less. They are holding any tax breaks hostage unless they get their way completely, with no compromise possible.
What I don’t understand is why the Democrats cannot use the Reconciliation process to pass their compromise tax cuts. Indeed, Bush’s original tax cuts, both in 2001 and 2003, were passed using reconciliation because the Republicans did not have 60 votes. That is why they have an expiration. Reconciliation only requires a simple majority, and 53 votes would be more than enough. Of course, then the new tax cuts would have another expiration, but considering the deficit, that is probably a good thing.