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Senate Democrats Plan to Put Obama Agenda Up for a Vote

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
A day after the president’s State of the Union address, Sen. Charles Schumer said Senate Democrats will be “pursuing major chunks of the president’s middle-class agenda.”

Senate Democrats plan to force a series of votes on recommendations from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address that they say would benefit the middle class and would be difficult for Republicans to oppose.

Senate Democrats will be “pursuing major chunks of the president’s middle-class agenda,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who leads the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications operations. He was speaking at a news conference today — the day after Obama’s speech.

“We’re going to push serious proposals to help create middle-class jobs, we’re going to defend Medicare, and we will pursue tax reform that makes sense for the middle class,” Schumer continued.

Schumer said Republicans would have to either compromise with Democrats or be cast as obstructionist. He cited the example of the payroll tax cut debate last year when Senate Republicans agreed with Democrats to do a short-term extension. The payroll tax cut was due to expire at the end of the year, and disagreement over offsets had kept leaders from reaching a full-year deal.

But House Republicans revolted against the short-term deal, instead pushing for a full-year extension. The move almost killed the compromise and allowed Democrats to embarrass Republicans by painting them as standing in the way of a tax cut.

“Don’t underestimate the chances of Congress to enact parts of the president’s blueprint,” Schumer said. “Republicans will not go along out of a desire to cooperate, but they may find they have to out of political necessity.”

“The payroll tax debate last year showed this strategy has its limits. It showed that if they take their strategy of obstructionism too far and make casualties out of popular middle-class priorities, they’ll be faced with a political backlash,” Schumer said. “So, don’t be surprised if election year pressures in 2012 may push Republicans to cooperate with this president more than they might be planning to. Otherwise, they’re going to find themselves on the wrong side of the middle class again and again.”

While Democrats gave few specifics on legislation resulting from the speech, Schumer did note that tax reform would result in upper-income earners paying more, which he contrasted with Republicans.

“Now, I’ve heard plenty of Republicans repeatedly call for tax reform,” Schumer said. “When Republicans say ‘tax reform,’ it’s often code words for simply reducing taxes on the wealthy.”

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