Obama Heralds Compromise Over Tax Cuts Despite Democrats’ Unhappiness

BY David Chalian  December 7, 2010 at 8:34 AM EDT

President Obama

President Barack Obama announces the deal to extend expiring tax cuts for two years. Photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/Pool-Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Vice President Joe Biden has the unenviable task Tuesday of going before his former Democratic colleagues in the Senate and selling them on the tax cut deal that President Obama hammered out with Republicans. You may have noticed that many Democrats seem less than pleased with the results.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman issued a brief and antiseptic statement Monday night. “Now that the president has outlined his proposal, Senator Reid plans on discussing it with his caucus tomorrow,” he said.

On the up side for the vice president, he’s not going before his House colleagues who appear to be far more up in arms over the compromise.

For Democrats, extending tax cuts for the wealthy was already a bitter pill to swallow, but adding an estate tax cut on top of that has exposed a significant intra-party rift.

According to the New York Times: “Some senior Democrats said an agreement by Mr. Obama to accede to Republican demands on the estate tax could lead to a revolt among lawmakers. Mr. Obama noted that he, too, still strongly disagreed with the Republican insistence on extending the tax breaks for the highest earners. ‘Ever since I started running for this office, I’ve said that we should only extend the tax cuts for the middle class,’ he said, acknowledging that he had been thwarted in one of the chief goals of his presidency.”

The White House is eager to point to the concessions it got (payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance extension), which, in essence, serve as a second stimulus bill that they had no other way of getting through Congress. The president and his team are also clearly happy to remind Republicans that this fight will reemerge during the presidential campaign, and they like their chances in that context.

But before President Obama can get to November 2012, he will have to do some repair work with his base.

Beyond putting together a $900 billion compromise plan over tax cuts, President Obama also made very clear the path he’s willing to follow in a more Republican Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, the Washington Post’s wise Dan Balz wrote of the choices before the president. He could either follow a Harry Truman model and double-down on Democratic base priorities in the aftermath of a midterm electoral shellacking, or he could follow the Bill Clinton route to triangulation and attempt to win back the center.

When President Obama went before cameras Monday night to announce the deal, he put that debate to rest for the time being.

GET IT START-ED

With the Obama administration and congressional Republicans having reached a deal on tax cuts and jobless benefits, the question now is: How much else will lawmakers do before the lame-duck session ends?

President Obama has said approval of the New START arms control treaty is a top priority before Congress adjourns for the year, but the GOP point-man on the matter, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, has repeatedly said there is not enough time.

But the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Indiana’s Richard Lugar, has argued there is “strong bipartisan support” for the measure. And former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell made “The Republican Case for Ratifying New START” in the Washington Post last week.

Absent from that editorial was Condoleezza Rice, a secretary of state under President George W. Bush. But Rice made her move Tuesday, endorsing the treaty in a Wall Street Journal piece titled “New Start: Ratify With Caveats.”

Also joining the chorus of calls for the treaty’s passage: former Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, who once worked with Lugar to create a program to secure and dismantle nuclear weapons in states of the former Soviet Union.

“Delaying ratification of this treaty, or defeating it, to inflict a political defeat on the Obama administration would damage U.S. security interests and U.S. credibility globally,” Nunn writes in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

CANCER FIGHT

Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer has spread to her liver, and doctors have recommended she not receive additional treatment, according to People magazine.

“Elizabeth has been advised by her doctors that further treatment of her cancer would be unproductive. She is resting at home with family and friends,” the Edwards family said in a statement to the magazine.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, reports that doctors have told Edwards that she “only has weeks to live.”

Edwards, 61, has battled breast cancer since 2004, when she was diagnosed in the final days of the presidential campaign. She separated from her husband, former North Carolina senator and vice presidential nominee John Edwards, after he admitted to having an affair and fathering a child with a campaign videographer who worked on his 2008 presidential bid.

In a post on her Facebook page, Edwards writes: “The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.”

Here is the full statement:

You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. It isn’t possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know.

With love,

Elizabeth

December 6, 2010

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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