During a heated floor debate with Mr. Reid, Mr. McConnell pointed back to 2010, when he and Mr. Biden worked on a deal, at the behest of Mr. Obama, to extend all Bush-era tax cuts for two years, through the end of 2012.
Mr. Obama signed off on the deal saying the economy was too weak to stomach tax increases at the time.
On Wednesday, Mr. McConnell said the economy is still struggling — and he repeatedly referred to those 2010 talks with Mr. Biden, who fidgeted with a pen and then clasped his hands as he sat in the presider’s chair, unable under Senate rules to defend himself against the attacks.
But Mr. Reid said the economy has added private-sector jobs for more than two years, and said it’s time to turn attention to controlling the deficit.
Action now turns to the House, and Senate Democrats called on Republican leaders there to vote on the upper chamber’s bill.
“With this vote today, there now is one man standing between over 100 million middle-class families and their tax cuts,” said Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat. “There is one man standing at the wheel as we careen towards the fiscal cliff. And that is [House Speaker] John Boehner.”
But the Ohio Republican is expected to hold a vote next week on a tax bill that’s similar to the SenateGOP version. While it likely will pass the Republican-led chamber, it stands no chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Under the Democratic plan, joint filers would pay a tax rate of 36 percent on adjusted gross income of more than $250,000 — up from the current rate of 33 percent. The rate would shoot up to 39.6 percent on income above $400,000, up from today’s 35 percent.
Mr. Reid also would let the current estate tax rules expire. They impose a maximum 35 percent tax rate and exempt the first $5.12 million in an inherited estate’s value. Instead, the top rate would rise next year to 55 percent, with only the first $1 million exempted.
Owners of 46,700 estates with values between $1 million and $5 million are projected to die next year, according to Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, potentially exposing their heirs to higher taxes.
The Republican plan would keep today’s lower rates and higher exemptions for inheritances, which the joint committee estimated would save 3,600 estates next year from higher taxes.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.