After several weeks of parliamentary maneuvers, the Senate finally voted Wednesday on competing tax plans from both parties, delivering Democrats and the White House a victory on a bill that would allow tax rates to increase on income above $250,000 per year for a family, $200,000 for an individual.
Moving to start the next phase of this fight, Democrats immediately attacked Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans, demanding that the House simply approve the Senate-passed tax rate bill.
"With the Senate’s vote, the House Republicans are now the only people left in Washington holding hostage the middle-class tax cuts for 98% of Americans and nearly every small business owner," said President Obama in a statement issued after the vote.
The vote in favor of the Democratic plan was 51-48; Republicans were united in their opposition, while Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) broke ranks with Democrats and voted 'No', as did Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).
"I'll vote against both of them, because I don't think they do what our country needs to be done," said Lieberman of his opposition.
Other Democrats who had expressed reservations about the $250,000 income limit still voted for their party's plan, helping the White House avoid what would have been an embarrassing political defeat.
"But at the end of the day, this isn't going to solve the problem," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who had favored a $1 million figure.
In a Senate floor speech, Nelson seemed to lecture his colleagues in both parties, bemoaning the lack of compromise and the focus on election year politics.
"It's going to be more political posturing, all the way up to the November election," said Nelson, who finds himself in a difficult re-election fight in his home state.
Both sides accused the other of trying to drive the nation over the "fiscal cliff" - that's the term coined to describe the automatic tax increases and budget cuts due to hit on January 1, 2013.
Before approving the Democratic plan, Senators rejected a Republican alternative by a vote of 54-45.
In that vote, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) broke ranks to vote against the bill, while Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) switched sides to back the GOP plan.
Next week, it will likely be the exact opposite outcome, as the House is expected to approve the Republican plan for a one year extension of all of the current tax rates.
That will mean lawmakers will leave for their August break as divided as ever, with the Democratic Senate backing one plan and the GOP House backing another.
And almost no one expects those differences to be settled before the November elections.