WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate voted 81-19 on Wednesday to pass a bill that extends Bush-era tax cuts slated to expire on Dec. 31. The measure now goes to the House for approval.
The bill also extends unemployment insurance benefits for 13 months, adds a temporary 2 percent cut in payroll taxes and includes education and business tax cuts.
“I am absolutely convinced that this tax-cut plan, while not perfect, will help grow our economy and create jobs in the private sector,” President Barack Obama said in a White House press conference Wednesday morning.
Obama introduced the tax-cut proposal last Monday after negotiating with Republicans. He called the bill “an essential ingredient in spurring economic growth over the short run.”
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said, “Without action, on Jan. 1, those fortunate enough to have a job would see their payroll taxes go up.”
Before the final vote, senators voted 63 to 37 in favor of considering an amendment brought by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that sought to pay for extending unemployment benefits by reducing government spending.
The vote to proceed with the amendment fell four votes short of the 67 needed to move forward.
A motion to consider an amendment brought by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., which would permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and repeal the estate tax, also failed.
The Senate voted 57-43 against proceeding with an amendment brought by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., which would let tax cuts expire for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans while extending cuts for the bottom 98 percent of earners.
“This is that alternative that many Americans would like to see,” Sanders said. “It is much fairer than the agreement of the underlying bill we are voting on now.”
Sanders had spoken out fiercely against the tax-cut bill, saying it amounted to “tax breaks for billionaires” in an 8 1/2 hour filibuster in the Senate chamber on Friday.
The bill is H.R.4853, or the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010.