Democrats ‘Taking Temperature’ On Tax Cuts Tonight

September 14, 2010 11:29 a.m.

Democratic leaders tonight will appeal to the split factions among House Democrats to try and come up with a game plan for whether to hold a pre-election vote on extending the Bush-era tax cuts for just the middle class, top aides tell TPM.

The party is far from unified on the issue, with conservative members wanting to either extend all the tax cuts permanently, while many in the middle hoping to extend them just temporarily, given the recession. But top members of the House Democratic leadership think it’s a political victory to extend them on the first $250,000 of income and to paint any Republican opponents of that plan as wanting only to help the super-rich.

House Democrats will hold a leadership meeting this evening, followed by a 6:30 p.m. caucus meeting with every member. A senior leadership aide described the issue as the most prominent on the agenda, which also will include a check-in about how the party’s campaigning went over the weekend.“Tonight is a temperature-taking. We’d like to see a vote,” the senior aide told TPM.

Proponents of a vote hope to give a little push to reluctant members (including those in leadership who told us yesterday that they do not think a vote is necessary) with a new poll from Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg.

Greenberg told Politico that his findings show a majority of independents, 53-38, back the middle class extension only, saying, “This is one issue where we have the high ground.”

There will be another caucus meeting tomorrow morning, and leadership hopes to have a clear picture of where members stand by then so that they can move forward swiftly with a vote, if that’s what the consensus is.

While leadership aides yesterday weren’t sure a vote was necessary, a key member of the team today came out explicitly in favor of one.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who over the weekend flirted with allowing for a temporary extension of all the tax cuts, told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent today in an interview he thinks “a very clear contrast can be drawn” between the parties.

He said:

A vote on this issue would help crystallize the choices before the voters. … It would demonstrate clearly that Republicans want to hold tax relief for 98 percent of the American people hostage in order to get tax breaks for the top 2 percent. … Without talking specifically about whether we will or won’t have a vote, this is an issue where a very clear contrast can be drawn. … Having this issue on the record would help crystallize the differences between the candidates in this election.

But Van Hollen also stressed leaders need to hear from caucus members before they decide.

The senior aide confirmed rumors from Capitol Hill that some Democrats want to create a tax bracket for people earning $1 million and up, a shift that could give the party the rhetorical edge this fall.

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