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Parties Settle In for Contentious Tax Fight

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy is leading Republicans’ messaging blitz regarding the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

But Democrats seem equally confident with their line of attack: that Republicans want nothing more than to protect tax breaks for millionaires and special interests.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that the president and Democratic Congressional leadership were calling on Republicans to “bring to the floor as soon as possible” a bill that would extend the Bush tax cuts for income under $250,000 per year. “To do otherwise would ... be a depressant on the economy,” Hoyer said.

The Maryland Democrat also pressed Republicans to allow a markup on the tax cut extension bill they plan to bring to the floor, noting he asked House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) about the issue at their colloquy last week but that Cantor “would not respond.”

“At [a] very minimum, we owe it to the American people to have the committee vote on amendments to this proposal and see where Members are voting,” Hoyer said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced a plan Tuesday to extend for one year the 2001 and 2003 tax rates only for those making less than $250,000. A vote in that chamber could come as soon as this week but will most likely be held next week.

Several high-profile Congressional Democrats, such as Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), have said that they would be willing to let all the tax cuts expire if Republicans do not compromise by allowing taxes to rise on some high-income earners.

That has caused some optimism among the rank and file. Rep. Peter Welch, who opposed the 2010 extension of the tax cuts, said he supports the hardball tactic of letting all the tax cuts expire and then proposing to reinstate only the middle-class tax cuts.

“We’ve seen this movie before, and the question is: Will Democrats take advantage of the leverage shift in our favor? I believe we will hold firm this time,” the Vermont Democrat said. “We’re in a good position on the politics and on the policy. So this is a fight that needs to be had, and we’re in a position to win it.”

Jonathan Strong contributed to this report.

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