From left: Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, OMB Director Jacob Lew, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, presumptive House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus gather for bipartisan tax negotiations Wednesday.
A bipartisan panel trying to negotiate a deal to extend some or all of the Bush-era tax cuts ended its first meeting Wednesday morning the same way it began: with members at odds.
The group, tasked by President Barack Obama on Tuesday to come up with a deal on the tax-cut issue, includes Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), incoming House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and presumptive Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.). But after their initial session, members offered few details about their discussions and appeared to have made little progress.
Baucus declined to give a timeline for reaching an agreement. “We’ll have a deal when we have a deal. If we have a deal,” he said.
However, sources familiar with the talks said Democrats used the meeting to press for a vote to extend the tax cuts for middle-income Americans. Republicans, meanwhile, refused to budge from their position that the Bush tax cuts be extended for all income earners.
Geithner and Lew appear to be stuck in the middle, sources said. A senior Democratic aide said that the White House’s message has been clear: “You can’t leave town without doing something.”
Sources have predicted that the final agreement could include a full extension of the tax cuts for two to three years and an extension of unemployment insurance and a package of other tax extenders.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.