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Centrist Democrats Fear Tax Cut Follies

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House leaders have been loath to tip their hand on their strategy for dealing with the tax cuts, beyond the straight middle-class tax vote tentatively planned for this week. But aides have speculated that House leaders could ultimately take a cue from whatever passes out of the Senate.

Rep. Gerry Connolly said he wants a one- or two-year extension of all the tax cuts “until the economy is in more robust shape.” But the Virginia Democrat said he would vote for extending just the middle-class tax cuts if given no other option and predicted that many of his like-minded colleagues would do so as well because “they don’t want to go on record as opposing a middle-class tax cut.”

Connolly, who narrowly escaped defeat on Election Day, groused about plans to hold a vote on yet another bill that would be dead on arrival in the Senate.

“Once again, we’re going to be in a position where we’re going to have a vote that is not going to be replicated, not even taken up in the Senate,” he said. “And I have a lot of trouble with that.”

Following a two-hour White House meeting with Congressional leaders Tuesday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) said House leaders still hoped to have a vote this week limited to the middle-class tax cuts.

Pelosi reiterated her opposition to extending tax cuts for higher earners, saying in a statement that “Democrats continue to have concerns about the impact on the deficit of giving a tax cut to the nation’s wealthiest 2 percent.”

Obama announced that Geithner and Lew would begin meeting with representatives of both parties immediately and holding negotiations “to break through this logjam” over the cuts, which expire at the end of the year.

But compromise will likely be hard to come by, as House Republicans are dug in on their opposition to allowing any of the tax cuts to expire. Speaker-designate John Boehner (Ohio) said that during the White House meeting, he and other GOP leaders reiterated their belief that “stopping all looming tax hikes and cutting spending would, in fact, create jobs and get the economy moving.” And earlier Tuesday, Majority Leader-designate Eric Cantor (Va.) said Republican leaders would urge their Members to vote against a Democratic proposal to extend just the middle-class tax cuts.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Obama’s creation of the bipartisan panel threw Democrats’ efforts into chaos. Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to put off making a decision on how he would move forward for a few days to allow the panel time to try to forge a compromise.

The Nevada Democrat had hoped to come to an agreement with his Democratic colleagues on a path forward during a closed-door meeting Tuesday, but he told reporters that he agreed to delay his decision to “show the American people that we are trying to work in good faith and come to a bipartisan agreement.”

But Reid warned that if the bipartisan group is unable to reach an agreement, Democrats would “move forward with what we feel is best for the American people.” A Senate Democratic aide said Reid’s offer to wait would likely last only a few days. 

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