Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have become adept at masking their differences of opinion. But when it comes to whether the House should vote this week to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, the two leaders have appeared at odds, and up until recently they haven’t seemed to care who knows it.
With the House poised to adjourn as soon as today, a pre-election vote on the tax cuts appears unlikely. Even so, Pelosi, who is facing pressure from liberal Members, has been reluctant to take the prospect of a vote off the table. Hoyer, meanwhile, has said he sees little, if any, reason for the House to hold a vote before the midterm elections if the Senate can’t act as well. He has also said Democrats don’t “need to have a vote to let the American people know where [they] stand.”
House Democrats were expected to discuss the issue at a Tuesday afternoon leadership meeting and an afternoon Caucus meeting today before making a final call.
“She may be a bit more sensitive to what the progressive wing of the party is asking her to do and progressive Members,” one Democratic source said of Pelosi. “So she may just be reluctant to take it off the table until it’s absolutely clear.”
Late last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced he would put off debate on the issue until after the midterm elections. Pelosi has been less committal, saying Friday that Democratic leaders “retain the right to proceed as we choose” and would “take it one day at a time.” And Tuesday morning, Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), a close Pelosi confidant, said he would still like to see a vote on middle-class tax cuts before the House adjourns this week, adding that a vote would send an “important signal.”
Democratic aides strongly dispute the notion that there has been any disagreement between Pelosi and Hoyer on how to approach the tax cut issue. And from a policy standpoint, both Members want the same outcome: They support extending tax cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 a year and families earning less than $250,000, while letting the cuts expire for those in higher income brackets.
“I don’t see any head-butting,” one Democratic leadership aide said. “I see two people who share the same view about what we need to do ahead. But they may use different words.”
Hoyer downplayed the idea that he and Pelosi had been at odds, telling reporters Tuesday that they are “in absolute agreement ... and Democrats are united ... on no tax increases on the first $200,000 of every American’s income ... and no taxes on the first $250,000 of every American family’s income.”
But aides who have been privy to private leadership discussions on the subject acknowledge that Pelosi and Hoyer come at the issue from different standpoints, given their different Caucus loyalties. Hoyer has close ties to moderates, while Pelosi is aligned with her party’s liberal flank.