Opposition to Tax Cut Deal Forms Unusual Alliances on Capitol Hill

BY David Chalian  December 8, 2010 at 8:02 AM EDT

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Sanders has threatened to filibuster the deal on extending Bush-era tax cuts. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The tax cut deal reached by President Obama and congressional Republicans has created some strange bedfellows on Capitol Hill.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-described “democratic socialist,” has threatened to filibuster the deal that would among other things preserve all Bush-era tax cuts for two years and extend jobless benefits through the end of 2011.

“I will do whatever I can to see that 60 votes are not acquired to pass this legislation,” Sanders told MSNBC’s Ed Shultz Tuesday.

Sanders said the agreement was bad policy and bad politics. “I think it is an absolute disaster and an insult to a vast majority of the American people to be talking about giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country, driving up our deficit and increasing the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else,” Sanders argued.

Sanders and other liberals who have expressed fierce opposition to extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans appear to have the American people on their side, according to a new poll released Wednesday by Bloomberg.

The survey, conducted before, during and after the negotiations, shows that 35 percent support keeping the lower rates for high-wage earners, while nearly 70 percent favor a permanent extension of the tax breaks for middle-income Americans. More than a fourth, meanwhile, want to see all the cuts expire at the end of the month, as scheduled.

At his news conference Tuesday the president said he recognized public sentiment was on his side in the debate. “This is not a situation in which I have failed to persuade the American people of the rightness of our position. I know the polls. The polls are on our side on this,” President Obama said, adding that he was not willing to see middle-class tax cuts “held hostage to the high-end tax cuts.”

The effort by Sanders to block the measure could also get support from an unlikely ally in the Senate, South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint. The Tea Party favorite announced Tuesday during an appearance on the conservative Hugh Hewitt show that he would oppose a cloture vote to allow the deal to come up for floor debate and a vote on final passage if the measure were to clear the procedural hurdle.

The South Carolinian said his “biggest problem” with the compromise is that it does not permanently extend the tax cuts. “[W]e don’t need a temporary economy, which means we don’t need a temporary tax rate,” DeMint said.

DeMint also reserved some criticism of the proposal for the Republican leaders who brokered the deal. “I don’t want to second-guess my leadership, but frankly, I think we need to come away with a lot better than this,” DeMint contended.

BOWING OUT

Minnesota State Representative and Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer is planning Wednesday to concede the close election for the state’s top job to former Sen. Mark Dayton.

Dayton had a nearly 9,000-vote lead on election night, but that was within the margin that triggered an automatic recount. As that recount appeared to have little impact on the vote totals and the State Supreme Court ruled against Emmer in how the recount should go forward, it became clear that contesting the election results in court may prove futile.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press has more here.

Emmer will make his announcement at his home in Delano, Minn., at 11:30 am EST.

His concession brings an end to the only outstanding governor’s race left in the nation since the midterm elections. It also prevents likely presidential candidate Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., from serving beyond the end of his term on Jan. 3 and working with a new Republican controlled legislature. But it should make frequent visits to Iowa all that easier for Pawlenty.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS: 1949-2010

Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards, died Tuesday at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was surrounded by family and loved ones. She had been battling cancer on and off since 2004. The funeral service is planned for this weekend.

Here are some of the obituaries appearing in Wednesday’s papers: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Raleigh News and Observer and the Los Angeles Times.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.