President Obama renewed his call for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help reduce the deficit during his State of the Union speech, a proposal that became known in 2011 as the “Buffett Rule” after Obama mentioned that Warren Buffett paid a lower tax rate than his secretary last year.
Obama’s State of the Union speech offered the first concrete details about the oft-mentioned idea, as he called for a 30 percent minimum tax rate for millionaires. And according to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will introduce a bill this week that could make the Buffett Rule law:
Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse will unveil a new proposal — first reported on this blog — to bring the tax rate of millionaires paying less than middle class taxpayers up to 30 percent. While we don’t know if the Dem leadership will act on this particular proposal, the “Buffett Rule” will get some sort of Senate vote. Republicans are all but certain to oppose it, perhaps unanimously.
Whitehouse told reporters today that he plans to introduce the bill Wednesday, after it is scored by the Joint Committee on Taxation. As Sargent noted, Senate Republicans are likely to rule out the proposal unanimously. Republicans have, indeed, gone a long way to protect the low tax rates of the wealthiest Americans. They insisted on a one-year extension of the budget-busting high-end Bush tax cuts in December 2010 and their intransigence on taxes repeatedly took the government to the brink of shutdown and default in 2011, even costing the U.S. its first credit downgrade.
Up until now, Congress has tried to reduce the deficit through spending cuts alone, many of them to programs that disproportionately affect the poor and middle class. The one tax hike the GOP has supported, meanwhile, would primarily affect working class Americans. Whitehouse’s legislation, however, gives Congress a chance to ask the rich, who have benefited from falling tax rates even as their incomes have skyrocketed, to share in the sacrifice.