JEFFREY BROWN: Now: the latest on the president’s proposed tax cut deal.
In Washington today, the Senate took it up for the first time, an opening move that could lead to both houses of Congress approving a bill by the end of the week.
The $858 billion tax cut deal brokered by President Obama and congressional Republicans faced a critical test vote this afternoon.
WOMAN: On this vote, the yeas are 83, the nays are 15. Three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn having voted in the affirmative, the motion is agreed to.
JEFFREY BROWN: That tally meant the bill had cleared the 60-vote threshold needed to limit debate and set up a vote on final passage, which is expected to come this week and possibly as soon as tomorrow.
Prior to the vote, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell urged passage.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-Ky.), minority leader: For two years, Democrats in Washington have argued that the solution to our nation’s economic problems is to give bureaucrats in Washington trillions of dollars and then have them spend it for us.
But, with this bipartisan compromise, we’re taking a different approach. We’re telling the American people to keep money that’s rightfully theirs, so they can spend it and invest it as they please.
JEFFREY BROWN: The measure voted on today would preserve the Bush era income tax breaks for two years, extend jobless benefits through 2011, cut Social Security payroll taxes by 2 percent for one year, and set a top rate of 35 percent on a new estate tax.
Colorado Democrat Mark Udall opposed the plan, arguing it would exacerbate the country’s deficit problem.
SEN. MARK UDALL (D-Colo.): It is a time bomb in our midst, the ticking of which we cannot ignore, unless we are comfortable knowing that it will eventually and inevitably blow up on our children.
JEFFREY BROWN: The path forward is murkier in the House, where Democrats upset over the tax breaks for the wealthy voted last week to block the compromise from coming to the floor.
Today, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said House Democrats may try to make changes, but he conceded the bill would ultimately pass. He spoke at the National Press Club in Washington.
REP. STENY HOYER (D-Md.), majority leader: And I believe that increasing the tax load on working Americans at this point in time on January 1 wouldn’t be helpful to continue to grow the economy. As a result, we don’t want to see that happen.
In order not to see that happen, you need to get a bill through Congress and signed by the president. We’re working on that. The legislative process is a process of give-and-take. And I think that’s going to occur.
JEFFREY BROWN: Late this afternoon, at the White House, President Obama welcomed the progress.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Once the Senate completes action on this bill, it will move over to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
And I have been talking with several members of that body. I recognize that folks on both sides of the political spectrum are unhappy with certain parts of the package. And I understand those concerns. I share some of them. But that’s the nature of compromise: sacrificing something that each of us cares about to move forward on what matters to all of us.
JEFFREY BROWN: A new Pew Research poll released Monday shows 60 percent of Americans approve of the agreement, with 22 percent against it.
In addition to calling individual members of Congress, the president hoped to give the proposal an added boost today by touting its merits in interviews with local television affiliates in four key battleground states.