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Menendez Likens Tax Fight to Negotiating With Terrorists

Bill Clark/Roll Call

Updated: 3:53 p.m.

Senate Democrats lashed out at Republicans on Friday, accusing them of holding the nation’s economic prosperity hostage for the benefit of the wealthy and likening the GOP to a terrorist organization.

With the White House and Republicans appearing to be close to finalizing a deal for a temporary extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts, Senate Democrats have become increasingly frustrated with their inability to pressure the GOP on the issue, and their anger was on display during a press conference Friday morning.

Following several hours of floor speeches hammering the GOP, a handful of Democrats including Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) attacked Republicans in a press conference, repeatedly using the word “hostage” to characterize the status of middle-class tax cuts.

“Do you allow yourself to be held hostage and get something done for the sake of getting something done, when in fact it might be perverse in its ultimate results? It’s almost like the question of do you negotiate with terrorists,” Menendez said when asked whether he and other Democrats would accept a compromise with Republicans.

“The majority has a responsibility to get something done, but [also] to get something done that is good for the country,” he added.

McCaskill likewise lambasted Republicans, accusing them of putting the wealthy ahead of the middle class and warning that if Republicans win the debate over tax cuts “it really is time to take up pitchforks.” Both Menendez and McCaskill are up for re-election in 2012.

Schumer, who handily won re-election this year, acknowledged the anger vented by tea partyers and others during the election but insisted that didn’t extend to upper-income tax cuts.

Voters “did say ‘repeal health care,’ they did say ‘reduce the size of government.’ But not a single one of them from the tea party or anywhere said ‘give tax breaks to the wealthiest,’” Schumer said in a rare moment of candor.

Schumer blamed the news media for Democrats’ inability thus far to build public support for their position. “Every time Democrats are united on something and we don’t have the votes because we need 60 ... you say, ‘What about the Democrats?’ You need to say, ‘What about the Republicans?’” Schumer said angrily.

While Schumer sought to downplay the stark divisions between Congressional Democrats and the White House, he acknowledged that at this point his caucus isn’t backing down. “We are sticking to our position,” he said.

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