Back in December, following Sen. Chuck Schumer's lead, 53 Democrats voted to create a new tax bracket at income above $1 million, and set the rate at the Clinton-era level for high earners. That wasn't enough to break the filibuster. But it was enough to bring the party's conservative members on board -- including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ben Nelson (D-NE). Indeed, the main defectors came from the left: Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Russ Feingold (D-WI). The only member of the Dem caucus who voted against the plan from the right was -- yep -- Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).
The millionaire's surtax is substantially similar to Schumer's millionaire tax bracket. But that's only half of the equation. The jobs bill itself also contains $447 billion in temporary tax cuts and spending measures meant to stimulate growth. And, of course, there's a big election next year, and Nelson and Manchin (and other conservative Dems) are up. So they could still balk -- and that's the key question.
Reid wants at least majority support for the bill. That won't be enough to break a GOP filibuster, but it will be enough to allow Obama and other Dems to claim a partisan minority is blocking the jobs bill.
Unanimity, however, would be better strategically.