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Democrats Target McConnell's Horse-Racing Tax Break

Bill Clark/Roll Call
President Barack Obama has challenged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans to support increased revenues in any debt deal.

“Leader McConnell, which is it? Are you for eliminating the ethanol subsidy or not? And if you’re okay with including it in the debt ceiling, then why not other revenues to ensure that the sacrifice is shared?” asked Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the No. 3 Democrat and messaging chief.

Several Senate Republicans, including Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), have said they are willing to include ethanol and similar tax breaks as part of a debt deal. But even Cornyn noted that ultimately what matters is what can get through the House. Republican leaders there have remained adamant that they do not have the votes to increase anyone’s taxes.

It also comes as President Barack Obama moved aggressively Wednesday to put pressure on Republicans to agree that increased revenues have to be part of any deal to cut the deficit and increase the debt limit. Obama said he didn’t think Republicans could sustain their opposition to including revenue in a debt deal.

“I think it would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that, ‘The tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done,’ or, ‘We’re so concerned about protecting oil and gas subsidies for oil companies that are making money hand over fist, that’s the reason we’re not going to come to a deal.’”

Obama also threw Republican requests for him to show leadership on the debt limit back at them, saying he had met with partisan caucuses in both chambers and Congressional leaders multiple times.

“At a certain point, they need to do their job, you know,” Obama said.

He also said Congress will have to start canceling its vacations if Members haven’t made significant progress by the end of this week. That had Senate Democrats and Republicans scrambling to see whether they could cancel at least part of next week’s planned July Fourth recess. A decision had not been made by press time.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) scoffed at Obama’s push to eliminate tax breaks for corporate jets: “If you’re having a conversation where you’re talking about something purely for political effect — corporate jets exclusion, which by the way they never raised with us — I ask you, is it serious or is it pure politics?”

Republicans are putting their energy into their proposal to amend the Constitution to cap spending and require a balanced budget. All 47 Senate Republicans back the plan, and McConnell said he hopes to force a vote after the July Fourth break.

Schumer ripped the idea.

“Practice what you preach,” he said, noting that House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget adds trillions to the deficit over the next decade. By the Wisconsin Republican’s own admission, it wouldn’t achieve a balanced budget before the late 2030s.

Amid the partisan sniping back and forth, Senate Budget Committee Democrats finally agreed on a budget blueprint. Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) declined to release details but said it could be unveiled next week — if the Senate stays in session.

Meredith Shiner contributed to this report.

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