Republicans are holding middle-class tax cuts "hostage," Vice President Joe Biden said as the U.S. Senate was to vote on rival party plans to extend tax cuts.
The votes, which could come as early as Wednesday morning, would be on a Democratic plan to extend current tax rates and other tax breaks for all income up to $250,000, while allowing income tax, capital gains and dividend rates to rise on earnings over that amount.
This is in keeping with their pledge to preserve the tax cuts passed during the George W. Bush presidency for the middle class but not the wealthy.
Republicans want to extend the tax cuts for all income, arguing any tax increase while the economy is still weak would hurt a recovery.
Democratic leaders told CNN they were confident that if Republicans would drop their filibuster, currently stalling action on the measure, the Democratic bill could get at least 51 votes. They said they doubted Republicans could do as well on their bill.
A filibuster is a parliamentary procedure permitting a lawmaker to delay or prevent a vote on a measure by speaking for as long as he or she wants on any topic.
A Senate filibuster can only be stopped when 60 senators move to bring the debate to a close.
"If Congress doesn't get this done, there are going to be 114 million people -- middle-class families -- see their taxes go up and in effect a cut in their wages," Biden told reporters in a rare conference call Tuesday.
"A typical middle-class family, making fifty grand, a family of four, is going to pay $2,200 extra," Biden said.
The Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year.
"But the Republicans have fixated on extending all the cuts, and what they're doing is very simple -- and you can understand it from their perspective -- they're holding the middle-class tax cuts hostage," Biden said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said his party wants votes on three measures -- the Democratic and Republican bills, plus a third on a President Barack Obama proposal some Senate Democrats oppose because of its changes to estate and dividend taxes.
Republicans indicated a split by the Democrats could hurt Obama politically, CNN reported.
"We think we should have a vote on all three proposals," McConnell said. "Show the American people what's really behind these proposals and what we stand for. If Democrats believe the president's rhetoric, they'll vote for his proposal. And he'll work to get their support."
Republicans threatened to continue their filibuster and deny votes on the Democratic and GOP bills if they didn't also get a vote on Obama's proposal.
Democrats said extending the Bush-era tax cuts under their plan makes economic sense.
"Everybody will get a cut on the first $250,000 of their income and, given our deficit position, that's the right threshold," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who is running for re-election.
"Those who have done very, very well, even in this economy, have a responsibility to help pay off our national debt," she said.
The non-partisan Government Accountability Office said Monday last summer's political squabbling between the White House and Congress during the debt-ceiling crisis cost taxpayers at least $1.3 billion.
The figure -- stemming from increased Treasury Department borrowing costs after suspending investments and then re-instating them when the crisis ended -- is expected to rise as multiyear obligations and other outstanding costs are added later, the GAO said.