The difference? This time around Mitt Romney is on the GOP ticket. And Democrats surely want him to defend this strategy of making tax cuts for everyone's first $250,000 contingent upon securing extra tax cuts for people who make more than that.
"Why won't they join with us to get this done?" asked Harry Reid at his Tuesday Capitol briefing with reporters. "Because they're holding tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans hostage in order to exact even bigger tax giveaways to the top 2 percent. ... I give and Mitt Romney and all the Republicans this news: they're all doing just fine. Mitt Romney doesn't need additional tax breaks. In fact the U.S. tax code is probably an afterthought for him given how much money he obviously has placed in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda."
Other Democratic leaders have adopted the same framing, too.
"I believe strongly that middle-class tax relief ought not to be held hostage to giving big tax breaks to very wealthy people in America who need to pay a share that they are fully able to pay so we can bring our deficit down and to buy those things that we need, including national security," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters at his Tuesday briefing -- his first of three mentions of the word "hostage."
Republicans recognize that if they delink tax cuts for top earners from the rest of the Bush tax cuts, and Dems let them expire at the end of the year, renewing them will be difficult to justify -- and downright impossible if Democrats win in November.
Democrats will hound them to answer for this strategy, and all of its implications, between now and November.
"I hope moving forward Republicans stop holding tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans -- including the millionaires, remember? They get a tax break up to $250,000 -- holding it hostage for more tax giveaways to the top two percent," Reid said.