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Deal on Tax Cuts Rankles Hill Democrats

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to say Tuesday whether he would support the measure to extend all expiring Bush-era tax cuts.

Rep. Peter Welch, who is rallying opposition to the deal, said it will add $900 billion to the national debt, empowering Republicans to fight everything else Democrats want by arguing that the country can’t afford it.

“It’s the same trap the Republican leadership set so effectively when they put two wars, a prescription drug program and the Bush tax cuts on the credit card,” the Vermont Democrat said in a statement.

On the Senate side, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was leading the charge against the bill, denouncing it as a “moral outrage.” 

“I am willing to do anything and everything I can [to block it] ... including a filibuster,” he said.

Even Senate Democrats who said they were on the fence said they had major reservations, particularly given the state of the nation’s finances.

“We’ve got this huge debt and deficit, and this only adds to it. It’s a problem,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said.

Likewise, Sen. Mary Landrieu, who voted for the original Bush-era tax cuts, said that while she may end up voting for the bill, she finds the extension of cuts for the wealthiest Americans “unconscionable.”

“It doesn’t make any sense to me, and so I’m very concerned,” the Louisiana Democrat said.

Republicans, meanwhile, reacted with muted glee. Sen. John McCain said he supports the compromise. “It’s a recognition of reality,” the Arizona Republican said.

Although Republicans were urged not to gloat by their leadership, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) made the deal a centerpiece of a Tuesday fundraising e-mail, arguing that Obama’s willingness to deal was a direct result of the GOP’s gains in last month’s midterm elections.

“President Obama’s decision yesterday to join with Republicans in opposing the largest tax increase in American history was made not because he had a sudden change in political or economic philosophy. For the last two years, the Obama Administration refused to work with Republicans, and Democrats in the Senate had the votes to ram through any legislation they wanted,” he wrote.

Not all of the news was bad for Obama’s team, with a handful of Democrats coming out in favor of the proposal.

“While there are some elements of the plan that I deeply dislike, I embrace the tax cuts package announced yesterday by President Obama,” Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) said he was not the only one supportive of tax agreement. “The main point is, what’s the alternative?” said Lieberman, who added that Democrats should be gratified that they secured a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits and a rewrite of Obama’s “Making Work Pay” tax break, along with other tax breaks that help working families.

Lieberman predicted that, in the end, “more than half of the Democratic caucus will vote for this.”

Jennifer Bendery and Emily Pierce contributed to this report.

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