Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., right, accompanied by, from left, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 3, 2010, to discuss proposals to continue the Bush era tax cuts. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Their defeat on the Senate floor is predictable and the speeches have the ring of the recent campaign season.
But Democrats are already eyeing the 2012 elections and eager to engineer a showdown over tax cuts in an attempt to depict Republicans as guardians of the rich.
“Do we want to extend those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires at a time of huge deficits? I would argue vociferously we shouldnt,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Saturday shortly before scheduled votes.
Republicans countered that no one’s taxes should be raised at a time the economy is still recovering from the a recession. “It is the most astounding theory I have ever seen, raise taxes to create jobs,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.
Political maneuvering aside, the day’s events were seen as a prelude to completing negotiations on a compromise that could avert a Jan. 1 tax increase at all levels — as Republicans want.
President Barack Obama has already signaled he is prepared to sign a compromise along those lines, and the White House has been negotiating privately with Republicans on a broader bill that would include Democratic priorities as well.
Among them are an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and extension of additional expiring tax breaks for lower- and middle-income workers even if they don’t make enough to owe the IRS money. College students would also benefit under the White House’s proposals, as would companies that hire the unemployed.
Also part of the discussions is a possible increase in the federal debt limit, which allows the government to continue to borrow to meet its financial obligations.
Democrats advanced two proposals, neither of which was expected to gain the 60 votes needed to advance.
One was a proposal to extend all expiring tax cuts on individuals with incomes of less than $200,000 a year and married couples making less than $250,000. The other, which drew opposition from White House officials, would renew them for all tax filers with incomes of $1 million or less.
“All those people out there in the tea party that are angry about the economics of Washington, they really need to look at this,” Sen. Claire McCaskill., D-Mo., said Friday as Democrats took turns pummeling Republicans.
“They need to pull back the curtain and realize that you’ve got a Republican Party that’s not worried about the people in the tea party,” said McCaskill, who will be on the ballot next year. “They’re worried about people that can’t decide which home to go to over the Christmas holidays.”
Republicans dismissed the attacks as the last gasp of a Democratic Party that lost its majority in the House in midterm elections, surrendered several seats in the Senate and will be forced to share power beginning in January.
“All of this finger-pointing is doing nothing to create jobs,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “It’s a total waste of time.”
Noting that unemployment had risen to 9.8 percent, he added: “Democrats are responding with a vote to slam job creators with a massive tax increase. Millions of out-of-work Americans don’t want show-votes or finger-pointing contests. They want jobs.”
Democrats said that wasn’t the point. “This is going to be a winning argument, not just for this week, but for the next two years,” said Schumer, looking ahead to 2012.
In the weekly White House radio and Internet address, Vice President Joe Biden, skipped lightly over Obama’s willingness to negotiate with the GOP on the Bush-era tax breaks.
“We’ve got to extend the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire at the end of the month,” he said. “If we don’t, millions of middle-class families will see a big bite out of their paychecks starting January 1. And that’s the last thing we should let happen.”
“And the second thing we’ve got to do is extend unemployment insurance for Americans who have lost their jobs in a tough economy,” Biden said.
Delivering the Republican address, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who was sworn into office this week, said voters in the midterm elections demonstrated their distaste for any tax increases.
“The current leaders of Congress should not move forward with plans that were just rejected by the American people,” he said. “These leaders should not raise taxes and risk another recession. Instead, Congress should reduce spending and prevent another tax hike on American taxpayers.”
Biden address: http://www.whitehouse.gov
GOP address: http://www.youtube.com/gopweeklyaddress