GOP rejects separate vote to extend all but highest tax breaks

House Republicans showed little interest Friday in budging on their demand that all the expiring tax cuts be extended in a single vote.

The top two GOP officials, incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), rejected a Democratic-led plan that would schedule a separate vote on extending tax cuts for households earning less than $250,000 per year and individuals earning  less than $200,000 per year.

"The last thing our economy needs right now is a massive tax hike on families and small businesses — and that’s what the House Democratic leaders’ plan would mean," Boehner said Friday in response. "We will oppose their job-killing tax hike and do everything we can to stop it."

The strategy behind the Democratic plan seeks to force a separate vote on extending the tax cuts for the top income bracket. All tax breaks are set to spring upward at the end of the year without congressional action, and because polling has shown that the public is against extending the high-end tax cuts, Democrats believe they could corner the GOP politically by parsing out the two votes.

Republicans have been insistent that extending all the tax cuts should be tied together in a single vote. The GOP favors extending the breaks for a few more years, if not permanently.

Cantor called the Democratic proposal, made on Thursday by outgoing House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a "non-starter."

"A bipartisan majority of the House would support a clean bill to ensure that no American faces a tax increase in this difficult economic environment," he said. "We call on Speaker Pelosi and President Obama to allow all members of the House — Republican and Democrat — to vote on legislation that would prevent tax increases for every American."

Democrats have hinted that they're willing to go to the mats on extending the middle-class tax cuts in recent days, begging off growing indications that they might relent early in the debate and agree to a short-term extension.

It's not clear whether the Democratic proposal will have the votes to advance through Congress. If all 41 Republicans hold together in the Senate — something Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Thursday was likely — they could block any move to separate the tax votes.

That's also to assume that no Democrats defect on the issue of taxes. A number of centrists broke with party leadership in a symbolic vote on taxes before Congress adjourned earlier this fall.

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