Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown cast votes against two bills Wednesday - one Republican, one Democratic - both of which would have extended broad tax cuts past January, each with different exceptions.
Brown said that with the economy teetering on the edge of a double-dip recession, now is not the time to raise taxes on anyone, including low-income individuals and families, the middle class, and small businesses.
The $250 billion Democratic plan, which passed on a narrow 51-48 partisan vote, would extend tax cuts in 2013 that otherwise would expire in January for millions of Americans while denying those reductions to individuals making over $200,000 yearly and couples earning at least $250,000.
The $405 billion GOP measure would continue tax cuts for everyone, including the highest earners, but ignores some tax credits Democrats wanted for low- and middle-income families for college costs; for some low-income couples and large working families; and for families with children.
Brown said he opposed letting those tax credits lapse - and ended up voting against the Republican plan as well.
"Right now, we should be working on a bipartisan tax and spending reform plan that keeps rates low for everyone, promotes growth and stability for businesses and families, and restores fiscal balance for future generations," Brown said in a statement.
Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry voted in favor of the Democratic plan, which he said would give 98 percent of Massachusetts families a tax cut, averaging $1,600 in savings per family.
"Many working families in Massachusetts are hanging on by their fingertips and an increase in taxes would have pushed them over the edge," Kerry said in a statement.
The vote is considered a win for Democrats, including President Barack Obama, but the bill will go nowhere in the GOP-controlled House.
The debate over the competing tax measures played out against the state's contentious Senate race.
Brown's Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, faulted him for not supporting the Democratic plan, saying he was holding tax cuts for working families hostage so that he could protect tax breaks for the wealthy.
"Scott Brown's got it all wrong - again - voting to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage so he could protect tax breaks for billionaires," Warren said in a statement. "Now was the time to stand with working families in Massachusetts but Scott Brown said `no'."
Brown shot back, saying "as the creator of the `you didn't build that' philosophy, Professor Warren believes that what's yours belongs to everyone, and she's using that as a justification for taking more of people's hard-earned money."
Brown's comment referred to a July 13 speech Obama gave in Virginia in which he said, in part, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." Republicans have characterized the comments as disdainful toward entrepreneurs. Obama had prefaced his comments by pointing to public infrastructure projects that he said aid businesses.
The issue of taxes could be critical in an election that comes as the nation continues to struggle to shake off the effects of the recession and the national unemployment rates hovers over 8 percent.
The race is also the costliest in state history with more than three months to go before Election Day.
The amount collected by all Senate candidates in Massachusetts through the end of June has topped $46.7 million, according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
That's more than the next most costly race - the nearly $44.4 million spent during the entire 2010 special Senate election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy.
This program aired on July 26, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.