As a final tax package with perks for the wealthy comes into focus, liberal Democrats appear to be the losers in President Barack Obama’s first major post-election deal, a trend that they may have to get used to in the next Congress.
“We’re still the majority,” said an aide for a prominent House liberal. “If Obama’s doing this to us now, wait until January.”
Liberals have been on the sidelines as Congressional leaders and Obama hammer out a bipartisan deal on extending the Bush-era tax cuts before they expire at the end of this year. Details on the final package are still being finalized, but Democratic aides said all parties have agreed to the most contentious aspect of the bill: a two-year extension of all the Bush tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers.
“We cannot play politics at a time when the American people are looking to us to solve problems,” Obama said Monday night, during remarks that outlined the deal. He said while he disagrees with “giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires,” passing them temporarily is the only way to ensure that middle-class families don’t become “collateral damage” in a prolonged political battle over tax cuts.
Liberal lawmakers said they are stunned by Obama’s willingness to concede so quickly to GOP demands that people who make more than $250,000 keep lower tax rates, an idea that Democrats and the president have railed against for months.
“I don’t like this at all,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) said. “The president has not put up much of a fight.”
The New York lawmaker said Democrats should be the ones taking a stand and “playing chicken with Republicans, not the other way around.” He added that Obama should take a cue from President Bill Clinton, who, in 1995, refused to cave to GOP demands that the budget include major cuts to entitlement programs, forcing the government to shut down in the standoff. After a few weeks, Republicans backed down and Clinton passed the budget that he wanted.
“The question is if Obama has the same nerve that President Clinton had,” Nadler said. “It doesn’t look promising.”
Rep. Anthony Weiner, one of the most outspoken liberals in the House, took to Twitter to air his frustrations with Obama on the issue: “Memo to our President: Why are we always punting on 3rd down? Lets get our offense on the field.”
The New York Democrat later criticized the president for compromising core Democratic principles in his deal with Republicans.
“Democrats should welcome the chance to tell the American people what we will fight for. We should be standing up for the middle class and extending unemployment insurance for out-of-work Americans. If Republicans want to add to our deficit and defend the interests of billionaires, make them stand up in Congress and tell that to the public loud and clear,”Weiner said.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.