Senate Democrats urge Republicans to pass middle-class tax cut

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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WASHINGTON — Democratic senators urged the House to pass a bill extending the Bush tax cuts for those making under $250,000 a year, saying that it was something that everyone agreed on, and that it ought to be dealt with and taken off the table in the fiscal cliff negotiations.

The Senate passed that bill in July. The idea was to get out of the way something that both Democrats and Republicans agree on — that people making under $250,000 a year should not see a tax hike — and then return to the fiscal cliff negotiations with that part already settled.

“Let’s do what we can do that we agree on,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow told reporters at a press conference, pointing out that only 27 days remain until the country goes off the cliff.

“Around this body, we always wait for the big deal, and then something never happens,” said Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, saying that it was OK to pass the tax cut even if it did not come with a broader plan to avert the fiscal cliff.

Sen. Charles Schumer faulted Speaker of the House Speaker John Boehner, who has declined to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, for not taking the “cover with the Republican right flank” that he said had been provided.

“The speaker didn’t have it before, but he sure has it now,” Schumer said. “When the Wall Street Journal says that decoupling would not go against conservatives antitax principles, what more cover does the Speaker need? When Grover Norquist refuses to declare whether decoupling would violate his group’s pledge, what more cover does the speaker need? And when more and more rank and file Republicans come out every day in favor of passing the Senate bill, that gives the speaker the cover he needs.”

“The House Republican leadership are like generals, hunkered away in a bunker, who don’t realize that their army in the field has already laid down its arms,” Schumer said.

He pointed out that the bill could be brought to the floor with a discharge petition, which would allow Boehner to keep his hands clean. Republicans unwilling to commit to the bill could vote present, Schumer said, or even no. Even if “the Paul Ryans in the other chamber,” who Schumer predicted “we may never win over,” did exactly that, Schumer said he believed the bill would still pass.

Until the House does pass this bill, Begich said, Republicans are “holding the American people and the middle class hostage.”

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