And so it went -- for 6 ½ hours -- on the floor of the House of Representatives, with Democrats, outnumbered 79-41, repeatedly trying to pick off and water down selected portions of House Speaker Marco Rubio's tax plan.
Though the votes on the tax plan and all the failed Democratic amendments were foregone conclusions before the first ''nays'' and ''yeas'' were shouted, the process was a political must: It was all about posturing.
House Republicans used Tuesday's discussion to flex their political muscle and give Rubio the backing he needs to negotiate with the Senate and its plan that offers far smaller tax cuts. And Democrats let Rubio know that his tax plan is an increasingly partisan endeavor, despite Rubio's pledges of running a bipartisan chamber. ''We've now turned this property tax debate into a partisan debate,'' said Rep. Jim Waldman, a Democrat from Coconut Creek. ``Let's stop the partisan bickering and do what's right.''
The real debate begins next week -- or perhaps as early as this weekend -- when the House and Senate convene a joint committee to work out a compromise between their very different plans. The Senate plan rolls back taxes to a more recent year and lowers taxes far less than the House plan.
The main House Republican plan seeks to lower $4.4 billion in property taxes statewide by eliminating all taxes used to pay for schools. It would raise the statewide sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents. The measure, which would require a constitutional amendment, also gives voters the option of repealing all property taxes on primary homes and replacing a portion of them with up to an additional 1.5 cents in sales taxes.
A second House plan would roll back property taxes even farther. It requires no voter approval but would force more drastic cuts in county and city budgets. In contrast to the House, the Senate calmly moved its bipartisan plan to cut taxes by $12 billion over five years through its Finance and Tax Committee on Tuesday without a single ''nay'' vote. The full Senate will debate the plan Thursday.