South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday that there was zero chance Republicans would budge on the estate tax portion of the deal with President Obama to extend the Bush-era tax rates, and blasted Obama for “whining” in his speech Tuesday.
“I think it’s a good deal for everybody,” Graham said of Obama’s proposal, but then criticized the president for his tone. “Quite frankly, the president is whining. I like him personally, but yesterday’s news conference was not one of his finer moments. If he believes in the bill, stand by it.”
In a speech Tuesday, Obama called Republicans “hostage takers” for refusing to compromise on their vow to keep the tax rate at their currently levels.
A number of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have publicly criticized the plan, citing the estate tax measure as a primary concern. Under the negotiated terms, the estate tax will jump to 35 percent on January 1 for any income above $5 million. Democrats supported a measure in the House that passed in 2009 that would tax any inheritance above $3.5 million at a rate of 45 percent.
Graham said that if Democrats want to sabotage the negotiated deal between the White House and Republican leaders, they should go right ahead.
“If our Democratic friends really think they can get a better deal with a House next year being in Republican hands, go for it,” he said.
Republicans will return to Washington in January with control of the House and with an increased presence presence in the Senate, putting Democrats who have serious concerns with Obama’s deal in a tough place to negotiate.
“We’ll debate this next year when there’s fewer [Democrats] with less voice,” Graham said. “If they think that’s smart, be my guest, go for it. We’ll debate it next year and make this stuff retroactive.”
Responding to criticism within the ranks, Vice President Joseph Biden was dispatched to Capitol Hill yesterday to pitch the deal to Senate Democrats, but with little success. Biden is scheduled to make his case to House members of the caucus Wednesday.