Democrats Inch Toward A Fight Over Bush Tax Cuts

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Last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rallied House Democrats to make Republicans choose between tax cuts for the middle class or no tax cuts at all. It’s a move that she and others in the Democratic leadership believe would expose deep rifts within the GOP and possibly save some House seats in the November election, while securing the White House’s preferred policy: letting the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire.

Before she can, though, she must deal with divisions within her own caucus: a passel of vulnerable Democrats who don’t want to take Republicans head-on; those who simply support tax cuts for wealthy people; and a variety of others who are tired of taking significant votes only to watch the issue die in the Senate.

To that end, Pelosi is pushing for a vote before the election, but possibly after the Senate deals with the tax issue on its own.“I do think it’s worth a fight, I do think it’s worth a vote,” said DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen last after a meeting with the Democratic conference. “As to whether we start in the House or the Senate, that’s obviously something that we have to figure out.”

Van Hollen was echoing several other Democratic leaders. But they may have little choice but to act. Senate Democrats are having a hard time finding 60 votes for anything , and currently a crop of Republicans and some Democrats are rallying for a temporary extension of all the Bush tax cuts, including for the wealthy.

Some House Democrats, according to Democratic aides, would be perfectly happy to just let Senate Republicans filibuster tax cuts for the middle class and then go back to the campaign trail without voting, pinning the gridlock on the other chamber. Others feel that would rob the battle of its drama — and thus of its political potency.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to take up the issue before Congress adjourns again for election season. That gives everyone about three weeks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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