WASHINGTON -- Democrats predicted on Thursday that the GOP would cave on the so-called Buffett Rule and pass a tax hike targeted at people who earn more than $1 million a year.
The rule, named after billionaire Warren Buffett because he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary and believes wealthy people should pay more in taxes, is expected to come up in the Senate on April 16, the day before this year's tax-filing deadline. The proposed rate hike would kick in for those earning above the $1 million mark and rise so that anyone earning $2 million a year or more would pay a 30 percent tax rate.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Democrats policy and message manager, said that even if his side can't break a Republican filibuster of the bill the first time out, Republicans will be forced to come around -- with help from Mitt Romney.
"Even if we come up short of the 60 votes needed, we're going to keep pushing this issue all year long," Schumer said in a conference call with reporters. "It's an emerging contrast with Republicans. They want to give even further tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires," he added, referring to the budget the House passed last week that would cut taxes for them by about $150,000 on average.
And Schumer said that Republican Party's likely nomination of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the presidential race will only raise the pressure because his and his wife's effective income tax rate on earnings of nearly $22 million in 2010 was just 13.9 percent.
"Democrats, independents and Republicans are for implementing the Buffett Rule," Schumer said, referring to voters. "Romney, particularly in his situation where he has benefitted from a lower tax rate because of his high income, I believe, will be forced to move to the middle and urge those in the House and Senate. So, I think there's a decent chance we actually might pass this [measure] this year, no matter what Republicans say now."
What Republicans say now is that the move is a stunt that doesn't address the nation's pressing problems of high unemployment and steep gasoline prices.
“This is yet another proposal from Democrats that won’t create a single job or lower the price at the pump by a penny, but may have the opposite effect," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
"Just as with their proposal to raise taxes on American energy manufacturers and increase the cost of energy, this is yet another sign that they’re out of ideas and simply focused on tax hike show-votes rather than pushing for the dozens of jobs and energy bills that have passed the House but are stalled in the Democrat-led Senate,” McConnell added.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) countered that if McConnell were "sincere" on jobs, he would have pushed for the House to pass a two-year transportation bill that could mean the creation of 2.9 million jobs.
"It's revealing that when faced with the opportunity to defend the rule that the hedge fund billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a Rhode Island truck driver, it's the response of the Republican leader to change the subject," Whitehouse said, arguing that it shows how tough Republicans find the issue.
"The Buffett Rule is proof positive that the tax debate has been turned around on the Republicans for the first time in memory," Schumer added.
"They're on the defensive on their signature issue: taxes," Schumer said. "The million-dollar threshold is something we discovered during the debate on the Bush tax cuts in 2010. We've continued pushing it ever since. It unites our party; it animates the public. Most people talk about it as something we ought to do."
One Senate candidate on the conference call, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), embraced the concept for her campaign.
"This is going to be a defining issue in 2012 -- the Buffett Rule and the issue of tax fairness," said Baldwin, who is running against former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.