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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed Tuesday to put off making a decision for at least a few days on how to handle the thorny issue of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts to allow a bipartisan panel time to try to forge a compromise.
The Nevada Democrat had hoped to use Tuesday’s three-and-half-hour Senate Democratic Conference meeting to put together a path forward on extending at least some of the tax cuts. But following a meeting Tuesday of House and Senate leaders and President Barack Obama — during which they agreed to form the panel — Reid decided to punt that decision for the time being. Obama indicated after the meeting that he wants it to report back in a few days.
Reid told reporters Tuesday 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.”
A Senate Democratic aide said that the offer to wait will likely last only a few days and that if the group does not make any progress, Reid could decide to move forward with his own plan.
Obama and the leaders agreed Tuesday to create a bipartisan working group to work on the tax cuts. Ways and Means ranking member Dave Camp (Mich.) will represent House Republicans, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) will represent House Democrats, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) will represent Senate Republicans, Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) will represent Senate Democrats, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew will represent the administration.
Reid’s delay throws into doubt whether Senate Democrats will join their House counterparts in forcing a vote on extending only those tax cuts that apply to middle-class income. With Republicans unified in opposing that option, the vote would be largely a symbolic one aimed at creating a contrast between Democrats and Republicans on the issue.
While Reid has previously insisted he would bring that proposal to a vote, he refused to commit himself Tuesday, although he did warn that if the bipartisan group is unable to reach an agreement, “we’ll move forward with what we feel is best for the American people.”