“Braley voted for a massive tax increase on Iowans making as little as $42,000 a year.”

— Ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, attacking Rep. Bruce Braley (D), candidate for the U.S. Senate, arguing that he is “too extreme for Iowa.”

This ad caught The Fact Checker’s attention because the citation for the line about Braley’s tax vote dated all the way back to 2008 — and it included our friends at FactCheck.org. We always become wary when attack ads cite such ancient fact checks. What is this about?

The Facts

The relevant FactCheck.org columns dealt with claims made by then GOP presidential nominee John McCain that Barack Obama voted for a tax increase that would have affected people making as little as $32,000. FactCheck.org called the number “bogus” because the McCain campaign failed to account for taxable income (i.e., the deductions, exemptions and so forth that reduce the amount of income subject to taxes.)

In reality, the level of taxable income that could be affected was $42,000 — though that really meant a tax hike of just $15 for a single person; married couples filed joint taxes would not be affected until income reached $90,000.

The NRSC thus wins some points for at least adjusting the figure to $42,000 (as the McCain campaign eventually did). But this claim still has problems.

First of all, the vote in question concerns a nonbinding budget blueprint. There never was a vote on an actual tax plan that year, but the blueprint called for repealing the tax cuts originally enacted by George W. Bush. (Regular readers may recall that the Bush tax cuts were originally designed to expire after 10 years; this blueprint called for ending them earlier.)

Brad Dayspring, NRSC spokesman, correctly notes that Democrats have repeatedly run ads attacking Republicans for voting for a Medicare plan as part of a nonbinding budget resolution. The Fact Checker has regularly criticized the ads, especially over the fact that the GOP Medicare plan has changed significantly over the years and yet the attacks ads hark back to the original 2011 version.

That’s also the problem with highlighting this particular vote. Eventually, in 2012, President Obama and Congress struck a deal to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans making more than $400,000 a year.  Braley voted for that agreement — which means that earlier vote is completely irrelevant.

“Voters should be aware of Bruce Braley’s record — his entire record, be it votes in ’08, ’10’ ’12 or ’14 — which includes support for tax increases,” Dayspring said  “It isn’t a secret that Bruce Braley, like Barack Obama, believes that higher taxes are needed to pay for more federal government programs that both they support.”

Incidentally, while the ad says Braley is “too extreme” for Iowa, the person he is seeking to replace, Sen. Tom Harkin (D), also voted for the 2008 budget resolution attacked in the ad.

The Pinocchio Test

There should be a statute of limitations on certain votes. The NRSC reaches back six years to cite a vote on a nonbinding budget resolution, without acknowledging  that a) the issue is now dead and b) Braley voted for a bill that actually kept the tax cuts in place for people making $42,000.

The NRSC earns Two Pinocchios.

Two Pinocchios


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