The Buffett Rule, two ways: Schumer sells it on ‘fairness’ grounds, Durbin goes straight for Romney’s Swiss bank account

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With Senate Democrats poised for a vote next week on the so-called "Buffett Rule," Harry Reid's two top lieutenants, Senators Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, appeared separately yesterday to push the legislation in the press.

"This bill is a question of fairness, making people believe in the code, and it brings in some revenues, no question about it," Schumer told the hosts of "CBS This Morning" in a morning appearance.

The bill, which has little chance of receiving a vote in the House even if it manages the 60 votes for cloture in the Senate, would impose a minimum 30-percent tax on people who make more than a million dollars a year. But the idea is that the G.O.P. opposition will allow Democrats to brand Republicans, and particularly Mitt Romney, as out-of-touch protectors of the rich.

Schumer admitted the bill wouldn't solve the deficit problem, but said it was a $47-billion start and might help restore people's trust in a system that seems tilted against the middle class. 

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Schumer, the Democrats' primary message guru, avoided explicit partisan attack during the segment. He didn't so much as say the word "Republicans," nor did he mention Romney by name. And, asked about the politicized nature of the debate, Schumer said, "Some of the people who I guess believe that the way to get this economy is reducing taxes on the wealthiest people make that argument, but there's no class warfare involved. It's a matter of fairness."

It was Durbin (in something of a role reversal with Schumer, his rival to succeed Harry Reid at some point as the leader of the Democrats in the Senate) who aggressively pursued a partisan attack on Romney, when responding to questions from reporters. Durbin floated the idea that Romney's refusal to release more of his tax returns, something Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, called for on the call, might be the result of Romney's Swiss bank account.

"It is impossible for him to explain or defend owning a Swiss back account," Durbin said. "I asked Warren Buffett at a meeting we had recently if he'd ever had a Swiss bank account, he said, 'No, there are plenty of good banks in the United States.' So I started asking people why do you have a Swiss bank account?"

He went on.

"There are two reasonable explanations. Number one, you believe the Swiss franc is a stronger than the United States dollar. And that apparently is the decision the Romney family made during the Bush presidency. And secondly, you want to conceal something, you want to hide something. Why would you have a Swiss back account, instead of one in the United States?"

Undercutting Messina just a little, Durbin even said it was a bigger deal than Romney's refusal to release more of his tax returns.

"I'd like to get beyond the number of years, I certainly think that Romney needs more dislcosure, and ask the press to really press some of these questions, the obvious questions. When's the last time a presidential candidate for the United States had a Swiss bank account? I think the answer is never. So that's a legitimate question, which I hope you'll ask."

When another reported asked Messina about tying Romney to the budget proposal from Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, and whether the "Romney-Ryan budget" was going to be a common term, Durbin got in another quick jab at Romney.

"I think that phrase is marvelous," he said.