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Senate Democrats Are Defiant After Tax Vote Losses

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Sen. Charles Schumer and other Democrats are emerging from Saturday’s tax-cut votes energized, despite losing the votes.

“I think the president should draw a line in the sand, as he said many times in Iowa, when he campaigned, he was drawing the line at $250,000 and no more. And he should stick with that and use his veto pen if he has to,” Harkin said following the votes.

What the renewed resistance to a deal on extending all the tax cuts means for bipartisan negotiations remains unclear. The White House and Republicans are generally in agreement on the broad outlines of a deal, and it had been thought the talks would begin to center on what items, like unemployment insurance or the tax extenders package, the GOP was willing to give Democrats for their support.

But with talks on hold because of the Saturday votes, it is now unclear whether they will resume in the face of the stiff Democratic opposition declared after those votes.

While many Democrats, the White House and Republicans all believe the path forward on tax cuts runs through an agreement that extends all the cuts for two to three years, Democrats insisted they will eventually break through with the public and build enough support to break Republicans.

“We think pressure will continue to build on Republican Senators. ... We expect two, three, four, five, 10 Republicans to peel off because they don’t want to be on the wrong side of history,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said.

But Senate Republicans appeared unmoved and shrugged off Democratic threats to extract a political price from the GOP.

“We didn’t need the showboats today to make any progress on trying to solve this very, very significant issue of whether or not we’re going to raise taxes in the middle of a recession,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told reporters Saturday.

“In the meantime, discussions continue. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to resolve this. I’m relatively confident that the end of this process will lead us to, I think, a very sensible position not to raise taxes on anybody,” he added.

The Minority Leader also appeared to confirm that negotiations are moving on dual tracks, with discussions involving Congressional GOP leaders and the highest levels of the White House, as well as a group of appointed House, Senate and administration negotiators.

“There are lots of talks going on,” McConnell said. “I think it’s a healthy sign.”

But on Friday, White House officials sought to tamp down reports of separate tax cut negotiations quietly going on between McConnell and the White House. Any discussions taking place outside of the bipartisan, bicameral group led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are just part of ongoing general talks, they said.

“There is one negotiating process that has six principle negotiators,” one official said.

David M. Drucker and Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

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