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Bush tax cuts: why Democrats are planning two votes they know will fail

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Senate Republicans, citing Friday’s unemployment figures, dismiss these votes as political theater. “This morning, we learned unemployment is now at 9.8 percent, even higher than last month. And Democrats are responding with a vote to slam job creators with a massive tax increase,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor on Friday.

“Millions of out-of-work Americans don't want show votes or finger-pointing contests. They want jobs. Americans don't want to see meaningless theatrics in Congress,” he added.

Both Senators Reid and McConnell are highly skilled floor managers with a comprehensive grasp of Senate procedure. They have battled the Senate to a stalemate for two years. But the GOP gain of six Senate seats in the November elections gives McConnell a new edge – and a formidable new management problem in leading a caucus with a significantly stronger conservative wing.

McConnell stunned Senate Democrats this week by producing a letter signed by all 42 GOP senators saying they will not allow any votes on the floor unless tax cuts are extended and spending for fiscal year 2011 resolved.

McConnell's conservative challenge

But conservatives in GOP ranks are pushing further. They want to hold the line not just on extending all tax cuts, but on extending them permanently. Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina, who backed many tea party candidates against GOP establishment-backed picks, is opposing compromise on a temporary extension.

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