Democratic leaders in both chambers face a hard sell this week in persuading their rank and file to back the deal reached by Republicans and the White House to pass a two-year extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts in exchange for a one-year extension of unemployment insurance.
President Barack Obama outlined a framework for the deal in a meeting Monday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Obama said after the meeting that while he was “sympathetic” to the House and Senate Democrats who wanted to force a political fight — even if it means letting the cuts lapse — he is “not willing to let working families in this country become collateral damage in political warfare.”
But a number of Democratic aides said it will be imperative for Obama to personally sell Members on why the agreement he cut in behind-the-scenes talks with GOP leaders is the best way forward.
Aides expect that Obama will have to make a personal appearance at one or more caucus meetings on both sides of the Capitol prior to a vote on the tax package.
“He’s going to have to make the case,” one Democratic aide said.
Vice President Joseph Biden will make an appearance at Tuesday’s Senate Democratic policy lunch to begin that process.
In addition to extending all of the tax cuts for two years, the bill would also include a partial repeal of the estate tax, a set of tax extenders Democrats sought to pass all year and key tax provisions of Obama’s stimulus bill, most notably the “make work pay” tax credit.
But the estate tax, Democrats being forced to back out of their campaign pledge to extend only middle-class tax cuts, and other GOP provisions will make the deal a hard sell.
While Reid and Durbin have come to terms with the fact that they did not have the votes to break a GOP filibuster of a middle-class-only bill — and that allowing all the cuts to lapse is politically dangerous — other Democrats have not.
For instance, following the defeat of two middle-class tax cut proposals on Saturday, Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) vowed to stick to his guns in opposing a full extension.
“We are going to continue this fight until we achieve our goal: a permanent extension of tax cuts for the middle class and no tax cuts” for the wealthy, he said on Saturday.