WASHINGTON â€” Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a move to open debate on the so-calledÂ Buffett Rule, ensuring that a measure pressed for months byÂ President ObamaÂ and Senate Democrats to ensure that the superrich pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent will not come to a decisive vote.
But the fierce debate preceding the 51-45 vote â€” the Democrats were nine votes short of the 60 they needed â€” set off a week of political wrangling over taxes that both parties insist they are already winning.
Senate Democrats intend to return repeatedly to the legislation, named after the billionaire investorÂ Warren Buffett, who has complained that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. On Thursday, House Republicans will counter with a proposed tax cut for businesses that they say would spur job creation but would cost the Treasury almost exactly what the Democratsâ€™ tax increase would raise.
Republicans say they like that contrast, and their language ahead of the vote on a motion just to take up the Buffett Rule was harsh and aimed squarely at Mr. Obama, who first proposed a 30-percent tax rate floor for anyone earning at least $1 million a year last September. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, went to the Senate floor and all but called Mr. Obama a liar.
â€œBy wasting so much time on this political gimmick that even Democrats admit wonâ€™t solve our larger problems, itâ€™s shown the president is more interested in misleading people than he is in leading,â€ Mr. McConnell said of the Buffett Rule push.
Democrats said they saw that as a sign of weakness. Pointing to a Gallup poll from last week that indicated 60 percent of Americans supported the proposal, including 63 percent of political independents, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, called the Republican response â€œproof positiveâ€ that â€œfor first time in decades, maybe generations, theyâ€™re on the defensive on their signature issue,â€ taxes.
After he made that comment, a CNN poll was released putting support at 72 percent, including 53 percent of Republicans.
With taxes due on Tuesday, a Washington debate on the tax code this week was inevitable, but the escalating attacks reflect the peculiarities of this election year. Democrats have known for weeks that the Buffett Rule would not win the 60 votes needed to break a RepublicanÂ filibuster, but they pressed forward in part to try to make the Republicansâ€™ likely presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, the face of economic â€œunfairness.â€