Fate of Bush tax cuts unclear

“I’m looking very closely at that issue because I’m very concerned about anything that would raise taxes until the economy is more stabilized,” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) told The Hill. 

Nelson has been a key vote in the Senate. His support was instrumental in getting healthcare reform passed, while his opposition to extending unemployment insurance helped delay the proposal for weeks. 

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) recently told The Hill that the Bush tax cuts failed to produce jobs and bolster the economy. She is against extending the tax cuts for the wealthy, but isn’t sure who should fall into that category. 

“I’m open to not extending some of the tax cuts for the very wealthy, but I haven’t really sorted out where the line would be drawn on which tax cuts I will vote to keep and not keep,” she told The Hill. 

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told reporters on Wednesday that tax increases could hurt the economic recovery. 

“It probably is too soon to cut spending or raise taxes,” he reportedly said.

Still, resuscitating the tax cuts for the wealthy would be an uphill battle, as many Senate Democrats oppose their extension. 

“I’m not in favor of that,” Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) told The Hill. “I wasn’t for them in the first place.” 

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) also told The Hill that he firmly opposes extending the tax breaks for the wealthy.

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) oppose the extension because it would likely not help stimulate the economy. Warner’s opposition comes with the caveat that wealthy tax breaks expire along with improvements to the research and development tax credit. 

The Senate Finance Committee is slated to discuss later Thursday which of the Bush tax breaks should be extended. 

A big question for the committee is how to pay for an extension of the wealthy tax cuts. Under pay-as-you-go rules, the roughly $700 billion cost has to be offset — not doing so could lose the support of Democrats who are open to the extension.  

“My preference is to get it offset,” Nelson said. “And I would work very hard to see that we could get it offset.”