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Senate Votes to Extend|Bush-Era Tax Cuts

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Senate voted 83-15 on Monday to end debate on a bill that will keep taxes from going up on Jan. 1. The bill, which may receive a final vote on Tuesday, would extend for two years tax cuts enacted under President Bush that are slated to expire Dec 31.

Nine Democrats, five Republicans and one Independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, voted against the measure. On Friday, Sanders held an 8 1/2 hour filibuster on the Senate floor against the bill's passage.

"If we do not act, taxes will go up," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said on the Senate floor before the vote Monday.

Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Mark Udall, D-Colo., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., John Ensign, R-Nev., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., voted against the measure. On Friday, Sanders held an eight-and-a-half hour filibuster on the Senate floor against the bill's passage.

The bipartisan compromise, announced last week by President Obama, will extend tax cuts for both the middle class and upper-income earners. Previously, Obama expressed his opposition for extending tax cuts for families making $250,000 or more, but said his priority was ensuring that taxes did not go up for the middle class on Jan. 1.

The bill also extends unemployment benefits for 13 months, provides incentives for companies to buy new equipment, and cuts the payroll tax by 2 percent, adding to employees' take-home pay.

The measure would also include a 35 percent estate tax after the first $5 million for an individual or $10 million for a couple.

Baucus, who serves as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said although he favored a version of the bill that was more focused on the middle class, he would vote in support of the measure. "Now is certainly not the time to raise taxes on middle class families," Baucus said.

"If we fail to extend these critical provisions, we put our economy at risk. Inaction clearly is not an option."

Democrats who said they voted for the measure even though they do not support extending tax cuts for the upper-income brackets claimed they agreed to the compromise because they think the bill will help the economy.

"Plain and simple, this bipartisan compromise is about creating jobs," Baucus said. "Job creation needs to be our number one priority."

The nationwide unemployment rate is at 9.8 percent.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., touted the bill as a way of "telling the American people to keep money that is rightfully theirs."

"The White House should be applauded for agreeing to it," he said.

McConnell said the bill was the first step in reducing government spending because it ended a source of government revenue. "We are officially cutting off that spigot," McConnell said.

Democrats argued that extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would cost the government $700 billion in revenue.

Udall, voted against moving forward with the bill, saying it would not help the economy or the national debt.

The bill is officially titled the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010.

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