Liberal leader suggests GOP House should handle tax cuts, unemployment benefits

A leader of an 80-plus member bloc of House liberals suggested Wednesday that Democrats should let the GOP-led House handle the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits next year. 

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said such a move would force Republicans into deciding whether or not they want to take two potentially unpopular stances during their first month in power.

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"Let them tell the unemployed they won't get benefits. Let them tell [the middle class their taxes are going up]," he said on MSNBC.

Grijalva's comments are the latest salvo from House Democrats, who have sparred with the White House over the tax-cut deal it struck with Republicans in Congress.

Liberals are upset the accord contains a two-year extension of the high-end tax cuts as well as the middle-class provisions. In exchange, the White House would receive a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits and a 2 percent cut in the payroll tax next year.

Republicans have said they would renew the unemployment benefits if they are paid for and would extend the middle-class cuts only if coupled with an extension of the cuts for families whose income is more than $250,000 and individuals whose income is more than $200,000.

President Obama struck the deal in the hope of avoiding what Grijalva described as letting Republicans handle the tax cuts. Some Democrats fear a Republican-controlled House would pass a more unfavorable deal and likewise would prefer to get done what they can during the lame-duck session. 

The White House on Wednesday put part of the blame for the deal on Capitol Hill Democrats, saying they were unable to coalesce around a single plan. That attitude has sparked complaints from Democrats that the White House failed to consult them on the compromise.

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