Tax-cut vote likely set for after elections
The White House and congressional Democrats conceded Sunday that they will probably wait until after the Nov. 2 elections to vote on a plan to prevent tax rates from rising next year for the vast majority of Americans.
"I doubt that we will" stage a vote before adjourning next week, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said. Speaking on the Sunday talk shows, he and White House senior adviser David Axelrod added that Democrats are nonetheless determined to act before the tax cuts expire in January.
Axelrod blamed Republican intransigence for the delay, accusing the GOP of blocking the president's plan to extend Bush administration tax breaks for the middle class alone. Republicans want to extend the cuts for taxpayers at every income level, including the wealthiest households.
Republicans on Sunday accused Democrats of making a calculated political decision to postpone a vote, noting that many vulnerable Democrats are uneasy about the economic impact, and political consequences, of letting anyone's taxes go up right now. House Minority Leader JJohn A. Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized that decision, noting that many economists say ending the uncertainty over tax rates is one of the most important things lawmakers could do right now to bolster the economy.
"If we leave here this week and adjourn for the election without preventing these tax increases on the American people, it will be the most irresponsible thing that I have seen since I have been in Washington, D.C.," Boehner said.
Unless Congress acts, the Bush tax cuts will expire in January, raising 2011 tax rates for virtually every taxpayer on income, dividends, capital gains and inherited wealth.
Many economists say Congress should extend the cuts at least temporarily to avoid throwing the nation back into recession. But budget analysts caution that the nation cannot afford to keep the cuts forever, noting that extending them all permanently would nearly double projected deficits over the next decade. The Democratic plan to extend the cuts only on income under $250,000 is nearly as expensive.
Democrats said they are counting on the pre-election impasse over taxes to ease when lawmakers return to Washington in mid-November for the first of two work periods before a new Congress is seated. Senate Democrats, who control 59 seats, will need to unite their caucus and win the support of at least one Republican to overcome a potential GOP filibuster.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said that will be easier after the elections.
"In a September session, it's hard to separate anything you do from politics," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) "And the politics ultimately triumphed. We didn't get much of anything done. And that's why I think, ultimately, members of the Senate have decided the best thing to do is go home, particularly those who are running."