Reassured by recent polling data on the public's anger over rising income inequality, Senate Democrats will continue to push for tax increases on the wealthy to offset aid to the middle class — an issue they believe will help define the 2012 elections.
But the strategy is unlikely to lead to passage of any legislation in the near future because Republicans have shown no signs that they feel any public pressure to change their stance that raising taxes on the wealthy would hamper job creation.
"We are going to keep at this," Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who heads the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center, said in an interview Monday. "We are going to keep at the payroll tax cut, and we are going to continue to put other jobs measures, as well as measures that help reduce income inequality, on the floor."
With more Americans beginning to believe that government policies favor the wealthy, Schumer recently asked Democratic pollster Geoff Garin to draft a memo on the income gap. Garin's memo cites several polls, including a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll in which 60 percent of respondents strongly agreed that America's economic imbalance comes from policies that favor the rich over the rest of the country. Additionally, 55 percent said income inequality is a significant problem in the country.
"From the perspective of policy, there is a huge gap between what the public wants the government to do and the positions of the Republican Party on those issues," the memo said. "For 2011, the electoral importance of these findings is that the public has a clear understanding that, at a time when the rich are doing well and everyone else is struggling, the Republicans have aligned themselves squarely with those at the very top."
On the Senate floor Monday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Democrats have been transparently political in their "jobs" legislative agenda, and he added that Democrats should take up a series of job creation bills passed by the Republican-led House.
"It's no secret that many people at the White House and a number of Democrats here in the Senate would rather spend their time designing legislation to fail in the hopes of trying to frame up next year's election," McConnell said, adding that trying to stimulate the economy with more government spending has not worked.
"As I've pointed out again and again, the House has been busy all year passing bipartisan jobs bills just like these that we could rally around in a sign of unity and common concern for the millions of Americans who are looking for jobs," McConnell said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.