In reversal, Senator Brown backs tax increase

Senator Scott Brown was adamant during his campaign last year. He would not vote to raise taxes, he said repeatedly, even for the wealthy. But Brown voted Tuesday for a plan that would increase taxes for households that earn more than $450,000, a compromise that he said is “not perfect.”

Brown did not have much choice on the measure, strategists from both parties said. Most Republicans supported the plan. A no vote would have aligned Brown with the most conservative among them, just as a special election begins to replace Senator John F. Kerry, a race many think Brown will join after relinquishing his seat to Elizabeth Warren.

Brown was quiet through much of the negotiations on how to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, the automatic tax increases that were set to take effect on the first of the year. Republican strategist Todd Domke said Brown missed an opportunity to prove himself capable of the kind of bipartisan leadership he promised when he earned the Senate seat in 2010.


“Now he’ll end this term not with a bang, not even a whimper, just the sound of silence,” Domke said. “That was not the high expectation when he won his upset victory.”

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As Brown fought Warren last year, he repeatedly used taxes to differentiate himself, saying that Warren was “obsessed” with raising taxes and that he fundamentally opposed President Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on households earning more than $250,000.

“To raise taxes on anybody right now in the middle of a 2½-, 3-year recession — I’m not going to do it,” he said in an interview on WTKK-FM in September. “I’m not going to feed the beast in Washington, the beast that is, in fact, spending and wasting taxpayer money.”

Republicans “got a deal and they decided to redefine the terms of the debate in favor of themselves,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist who was a senior adviser during Kerry’s 2004 bid for president. “If [Brown] had voted against this thing, he would have been way outside of the mainstream.”

In an e-mailed statement Tuesday, Brown said that the Senate’s plan “will protect 99 percent of Americans from a massive tax increase, while giving members [of Congress] the time to continue to work on the very real debt and deficit issues that our nation faces.” Calls to his staff requesting further comment were not returned.

Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at cconaboy@boston.com.