Sen. Jim DeMint announced Tuesday that he will oppose the tax cut deal that President Barack Obama negotiated with GOP leaders and that he would vote against bringing it to the floor.
The South Carolina Republican follows Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in coming out against the deal. Assuming the basic outlines of the agreement don’t change, the Senate could see one of the oddest political alliances in the chamber’s history if Sanders, a devout progressive, and DeMint, a hard-line conservative, find themselves both working to block the legislation.
“Most of us who ran this election said we were not going to vote for anything that increased the deficit. This does,” DeMint said on the conservative Hugh Hewitt radio show. “It raises taxes, it raises the death tax. I don’t think we needed to negotiate that aspect of this thing away. I don’t think we need to extend unemployment any further without paying for it and without making some modifications such as turning it into a loan at some point.
“Frankly, the biggest problem I have, Hugh, is we don’t need a temporary economy, which means we don’t need a temporary tax rate,” he added.
DeMint is the second Republican to come out against the deal, although for very different reasons. Although DeMint wants to hold out for a permanent extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts — the current deal only extends them for two years — Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio) said Monday that he would oppose an extension of any length.
DeMint’s opposition could make it easier for some moderate Democrats to accept the deal, because it may blunt their complaints that Obama gave up too much to the GOP in making the deal.
But it could have the opposite effect, particularly if conservative Republicans such as Sens. David Vitter (La.), Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Jim Bunning (Ky.) join DeMint.
Sanders has said he will mount a filibuster challenge to the agreement, and there is broad discontent within the Democratic Party over the deal. Members say Obama should have held out for more than a 13-month extension of unemployment insurance and a handful of stimulus tax provisions in return for extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts.
Sanders lambasted the agreement Tuesday, saying, “In my view, it is a moral outrage that at a time when this country has a $13.8 trillion national debt, a collapsing middle class and a growing gap between the very rich and everybody else” that Republicans would demand an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for middle-class tax cuts and unemployment insurance.