A number of press reports have described Saturday's Democratic-driven votes on partially extending the Bush tax cuts as “symbolic.” It's true the results were a foregone conclusion: everyone knew Republicans would filibuster and Democrats didn't have the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster. But they were real votes, and Democrats mustered every single one of their members to the Senate floor to cast a vote. The final results for the two votes — one to extend the Bush tax cuts for all but individuals making more than $200,000 per year and couples making more than $250,000, and the other to extend the cuts to everyone making less than $1,000,000 — were 53 to 36 and 53 to 37, respectively.
In each case, every Democratic senator voted, including the five, and then six, who voted with Republicans. But in one case, ten Republicans didn't bother to vote, and in the other 11 Republicans didn't vote. Here are the 11: Bunning, Burr, Chambliss, Cornyn, Gregg, Hutchison, Inhofe, Isakson, Sessions, Vitter, and Voinovich.
Voinovich voted (with his Republicans colleagues) in one of the votes. The other ten missed both votes. Perhaps they'll blame it on scheduling, explaining that Majority Leader Harry Reid set the votes for a Saturday morning just to make things difficult. That's true, but Democrats managed to show up. Perhaps they'll say the vote didn't mean anything, since the GOP didn't need to muster 41 votes to stop the tax increases; it was the Democrats, divided among themselves, who needed 60 votes to push them through. But the fact is, unlike their GOP colleagues who cast votes, the ten Republican non-voters are not on the record, in the most emphatic way they could be on the record, opposing the Democratic plan to raise taxes on higher-income workers. Everyone agrees that the economy is the most important issue today and that future tax rates are the most pressing economic issue facing Congress at the moment. So where were those ten Republicans?