Senate Democrats: Extension of Tax Cuts Will Have to Wait

BY Terence Burlij and Quinn Bowman  September 24, 2010 at 8:05 AM EST

Flags at the Capitol

American flags stand at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Senate Democratic leaders announced Thursday they were deserting plans to extend tax cuts until after November’s midterm elections when the political atmosphere in Washington could lead to compromise on the issue.

“Democrats believe we must permanently extend tax cuts for the middle class before they expire at the end of the year, and we will. Unfortunately, to this point we have received no cooperation from Republicans to do so,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a statement Thursday. “Democrats will not allow families in Nevada and across the country to suffer or be held hostage by Republicans who would rather give tax giveaways to millionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas. We will come back in November and stay in session as long as it takes to get this done,” added Manley.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded, “We hope Democrats — who have yet to actually introduce tax legislation to prevent tax hikes — won’t hold it hostage to their burning desire to raise taxes on small businesses and families in the middle of a recession.”

The vast majority of Democrats want to extend only the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, which includes individuals making less than $200,000 and families earning $250,000 or less. Republicans propose extending all the tax cuts, including for the wealthiest Americans. Doing away with those breaks would save about $700 billion over the next decade, while the tax cuts for the middle class have a price tag of $3 trillion.

A handful of moderate Senate Democrats, including Indiana’s Evan Bayh, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, Virginia’s Jim Webb and North Dakota’s Kent Conrad, have signaled they would like to see all the tax cuts extended. Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut has also opposed letting any of the cuts expire this year.

The Senate is expected to leave at the end of next week so that lawmakers can have a full month of campaigning in the run-up to the election. Members would come back for a week in mid-November before breaking for Thanksgiving, return at the end of the November and remain in session for a yet-to-be-determined length of time.

WILL YOU TAKE THE PLEDGE?

House Republican leaders laid out their plans for the country
Thursday
, and as expected, plenty of people had opinions about the “Pledge to America,” which focused on extended the Bush tax cuts and repealing the health care reform bill.

Below is a brief roundup of what different pundits and media organizations think about the GOP’s plan, which is intended to serve as the blueprint for a Republican majority if it takes control of the House in November.

The Wall Street Journal gives the pledge a qualified positive review:

House Republicans released their “Pledge to America” campaign agenda
yesterday, and it was quickly attacked by Democrats as dangerously
radical and by the blogging right as dangerously cautious. The reality
is that it’s somewhere in between, a consensus document typical of
Congress that is very strong in promising to shut down the Obama
agenda but less clear as a road map to governing.

Paul Krugman compares the Republicans plan to promising voters that they would save gas because the government would now build every road so that it went downhill:

The document repeatedly condemns federal debt — 16 times, by my
count. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush
tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add about
$3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade — about $700 billion
more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals.

The National Review wholeheartedly supports the pledge, calling it bolder than 1994′s Contract with America.

The Contract with America merely promised to hold votes on popular
bills that had been bottled up during decades of Democratic control of
the House. The pledge commits Republicans to working toward a broad
conservative agenda that, if implemented, would make the federal
government significantly smaller, Congress more accountable, and
America more prosperous.

Jon Chait of the New Republic slams the pledge, echoing Krugman that it would increase the deficit.

It’s a reprise of every theme of Republican economic policy-making
the party has followed for 20 years, since the conservative wing
rejected George H.W. Bush’s deficit reduction deal and seized control
of the party. Since then, the Republican program has consisted of a
combination of specific, detailed plans to increase the deficit
alongside vague assertions of intent to reduce it.

And Erick Erickson at RedState.com says the plan gets an A+ on rhetoric and a C- on ideas.

These 21 pages tell you lots of things, some contradictory things,
but mostly this: it is a serious of compromises and milquetoast
rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans
because the House GOP does not have the fortitude to lead boldly in
opposition to Barack Obama.

STAYING CLOSE

Two new polls conducted by the Democratic Party show two of its candidates within striking distance in key states it hopes to pick up this fall.

In Missouri, a reliably competitive state, Democratic secretary of state Robin Carnahan has closed in on Republican Rep. Roy Blunt.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza has the details:

The Garin Hart Yang poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial
Campaign Committee shows Blunt leading the race 45 percent to 41
percent. Taking out those leaning to either candidate and Blunt is at
41 percent to 40 percent for Carnahan.

In Kentucky, Jack Conway, the state’s Democratic attorney general, remains competitive with the Republican nominee, ophthalmologist Rand Paul.

Alexander Burns over at POLITICO breaks down the poll:

Republican Rand Paul has just a three-point lead in the Kentucky
Senate race, taking 45 percent of the vote to Democratic state
Attorney General Jack Conway’s 42 percent in a poll commissioned by
the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The DSCC survey,
conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group, shows Paul with almost
evenly split favorability numbers: 44 percent of voters said they had
a favorable impression of him, compared with 40 percent who said their
impression was unfavorable. For Conway, those numbers were more
positive: 43 percent favorable, 29 percent unfavorable.

For more political news, visit our politics page.