WASHINGTON D.C. - New York's junior U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand diverged from her mentor and peer Charles Schumer and voted against the controversial extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.
The $858 billion bill - which is being called a compromise by President Barack Obama and federal legislative leaders - easily passed the U. S. Senate 81-19 Dec. 15, then passed the House of Representatives the following day by a vote of 277-148. On Dec. 17, Obama signed the bill into law.
But because it extends the tax cuts for even the wealthiest Americans while costing the federal budget almost $1 trillion in revenue, Gillibrand refused to support it.
"We need to focus on the middle class, who are always left behind, not the people at the very top, who are doing just fine in this economy," Gillibrand said.
Democrats originally sought to allow all of the tax cuts to expire at year's end except those for households making less than $200,000 annually. A later proposal that bumped the threshold to $250,000 was blocked by Republicans who wanted all of the cuts extended.
"With unemployment near 10 percent and a growing budget deficit, every dollar in this deal should be spent in a way that creates jobs and gets our economy growing," Gillibrand said. "Tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires do not create jobs and will not help our economy grow."
The bill also caps the estate tax at 35 percent and exempts them up to $5 million per individual.
Most Democratic lawmakers and the Obama Administration lauded the deal made with Republicans because it included an extension of unemployment insurance.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the compromise was reasonable.
"It is not perfect, but it will create two million jobs, cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses, and ensure that Americans who are still looking for work will continue to have they safety net they rely on to make ends meet," Reid said.
GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that cutting taxes for the wealthy will boost the economy.
"Today a wide bipartisan majority in the Senate has shown their commitment to the economic security of millions of American families and hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the country by protecting them from a job-killing tax hike at the beginning of the year," McConnell said.
New York's 23rd Congressional District Democratic Representative Bill Owens said he supports the deal.
"Although I do not believe that extending tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy will create jobs, and I'm concerned that doing so will unnecessarily add to the debt, I believe a two-year extension is a fair compromise and that the overall agreement contains significant job creation measures," Owens said.
Outgoing 20th district Democrat Scott Murphy said he also supported the current bill.