Top Democrat calls on Obama to leave the tax threshold at $400,000

A top House Democrat wants President Obama to keep the threshold for letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire at $400,000 rather than $250,000, despite House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) recent fiscal cliff setback.

"I would hope that he would not go back to 250," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) told The Hill Friday morning. "It's fair — $250,000 may sound like it's a lavish income in Louisiana. Not on Long Island."

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Obama recently backed off his campaign pledge to fight for continuing the Bush-era tax rates for only those families making $250,000 or less, raising that bar to $400,000 in negotiations with Boehner, before the Speaker sought to unilaterally pass a bill through the House with the tax-break cutoff mark at $1 million.

Conservative Republicans balked and Boehner had to pull the bill from the House floor Thursday night, an embarrassing setback for the speaker. But in spite of the augmented leverage Obama gained from Boehner's defeat, Israel argues that the increased threshold on extending the tax cuts is both the right policy and the best politics for House Democrats.

"As a matter of good government I think it's fair to go higher," Israel said. "As a matter of politics a lot of our districts are in fairly affluent, moderate suburban areas where even if you're not making $250,000 you're close to it and you aspire to it. I think in those districts, $400,000, or I would go higher, $500,000, I think that's a better number both on the government, the policy, and the politics."

Israel, who recently signed on for another term as head of the DCCC, hails from an affluent district in suburban New York City. He told The Hill that Democrats' path to picking up House seats in 2014 runs through similar suburban seats with large numbers of independents, which he referred to as "soccer mom districts," and indicated that policies targeted at people in suburban communities would help Democrats in the 2014 elections.

Israel took shots at House Republicans for the way they've handled negotiations on the looming fiscal cliff, though he notably did not mention Boehner by name.

"2012 was a referendum on the president. 2014 is going to be a referendum on House Republicans and they're not starting out so good," he said. "2012 instructed us that people want solutions. They're tired of the Tea Party, they're tired of extremes and they're tired of paralysis, and what we got last night was Tea Party extremism, paralysis and no solution."

Israel said that in his experience, "When it's my way or the highway you usually wind up on the highway, and that's where they are right now: Heading home from Washington."

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