WASHINGTON — Republican-led opposition blocked the “Buffett rule” from advancing in the Senate, turning back an election-year effort by President Obama to slap a new tax rate on those earning beyond $1 million a year.
The only Republican to back the measure was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
For Republicans, defeating the measure was a potentially risky move at a time when 60 percent of voters support the idea, according to a recent Gallup poll, as a way to ensure wealthy Americans pay their fair share of taxes. Democrats are likely to revive the effort in coming months.
“Continuing to allow some of the wealthiest Americans to use special tax breaks to avoid paying their fair share simply cannot be justified,” the White House said in a statement before the vote.
But Republicans stood firm in their opposition, calling the measure a “gimmick” that was more about blaming the wealthy than reining in government spending and deficits.
The Senate voted 51-45. One Democrat, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, voted against.
“Most people have heard enough about this president’s notion of fairness,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. “To most people, what’s fair about America is that they can earn their success and expect to be rewarded for it.”
Named for Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who has said he should not enjoy a lower tax rate than his secretary, the Buffett rule would impose a minimum 30 percent tax rate on annual incomes beyond $1 million. The top income tax rate is now 35 percent, but many wealthy households pay less because of deductions and lower rates for income that comes from investments rather than earnings.
GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney paid an effective 14 percent rate in 2010, and has said he expects to pay about 15 percent for 2011.