JIM LEHRER: And now, back in this country, as a lead-in to the analysis of Shields and Brooks: the latest on the tax cut deal President Obama made with Republicans.
The tax cut deal appeared to gain momentum today, with changes to mollify discontented Democrats. The president again predicted passage. And, in an interview with National Public Radio, he suggested he could accept some modifications.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My sense is, is that there are going to be discussions between both House and Senate leadership about all the final elements of the package. Keep in mind, we didn’t actually write a bill. We put forward a framework. I’m confident that the framework is going to look like the one that we put forward.
I thought it was a slow news day.
BILL CLINTON, former president of the United States: Slow news day.
BARACK OBAMA: So, I would bring the other guy in.
JIM LEHRER: Later, the president met with former President Clinton to tap his experience working with disaffected Democrats and to get his endorsement for the deal.
BILL CLINTON: The agreement, taken as a whole, is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs, and to minimize the chances that it will slip back.
JIM LEHRER: Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a bill that embodies the framework, estimated to cost $855 billion.
As the president agreed with Republicans, the measure would preserve the Bush era income tax breaks for two years, extend jobless benefits through 2011, cut Social Security payroll taxes by 2 percent for one year, and set a top rate of 35 percent on a new estate tax.
The Senate measure also added sweeteners to pick up Democratic votes. They included one-year extensions of credits for ethanol, biodiesel fuel, and energy-efficient appliances. The bill also continues tax breaks for commuters using mass transit.
Some, like Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, said the package still tilts far too much to the rich. He spoke on the Senate floor for most of the day.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): You can call what I’m doing today whatever you want. You can call it a filibuster. You can call it a very long speech. I’m not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle.
I am simply here today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this — this agreement provides.
JIM LEHRER: House Democrats have already rejected the original package. Today, Virginia’s Bobby Scott and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus warned against keeping tax cuts for the rich in the final bill.
REP. BOBBY SCOTT (D-Va.): You can’t give everybody a tax cut, like it’s Oprah Winfrey or Santa Claus. You get a tax cut, you get a tax cut. And, eventually, somebody is going to have to pay for it. What we are suggesting is, we let many of these tax cuts expire, and then deal with the tough choices next year.
JIM LEHRER: Most Republicans were expected to support the bill, but there were some rumblings on the right.
“Washington Post” columnist Charles Krauthammer suggested the deal is another huge stimulus plan that adds to the deficit and aids the president’s reelection bid. He wrote, “It will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years, which just happen to be the two years of the run-up to the next presidential election.”
The more immediate timetable called for the Senate to hold a procedural vote on the bill Monday afternoon.