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GOP, Democrats Lay Out Tax Cut Stances

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined House GOP leaders in calling on President Barack Obama to extend the Bush-era tax cuts. McConnell said the economy needs the certainty that such tax breaks provide.

Two top surrogates for President Barack Obama found themselves in a political firestorm this week when they were accused by Republicans of breaking with the president in calling for an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

Although President Bill Clinton and former National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers quickly walked back their comments, the damage was done: Republicans seized on the remarks to put pressure on Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to act on a short-term extension of the 2001 and 2003 cuts before November.

The fuss served as a preview of the GOP’s election-year strategy, as the House lines up a July vote to extend all the cuts. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) joined House GOP leaders to call on Obama to extend the tax cuts. McConnell said that in 2010 negotiations with Vice President Joseph Biden to extend the tax rates, the administration argued that the economy needed it. Now, he said, the economy is worse than it was then.

“It’s pretty obvious that the economy needs the certainty of the extension of the current tax rates for at least a year,” McConnell said.

“It’s really important that we provide certainty to job creators in our country,” Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) echoed.

Such a full extension will likely be one of the last votes Members take before they leave for the August recess. “Whenever the vote on stopping the largest tax hike in history occurs, I would hope that many Democrats join former President Bill Clinton and Republicans in opposing it,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

Democrats are already on guard. Rep. Robert Andrews (N.J.) conceded that forcing Democrats to vote on the subject “will put some in a tough political spot.” But, he added, “to run that sort of political play that close to an election in the midst of global economic turmoil is pretty bad and sick.”

The White House pushed back hard.

Speaking aboard Air Force One on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president would only sign a bill to extend the Bush tax cuts for middle-income Americans who make up to $250,000.

Pressed whether that applied to temporary measures to give more time for compromise, Carney said the president “could not be more clear.”

“The president’s position is that we absolutely should extend the tax cuts for the middle class; we should not extend and he will not extend tax cuts for the highest-income Americans,” Carney said. “The question you should be asking is, will the Republicans force a tax hike on 98 percent of tax-paying Americans because they’re holding them hostage to tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans?”

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