"What [Democrats are] saying is we ought to raise taxes in the middle of a very, very difficult economic environment," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told CNN's "State of the Union," adding, "[Democrats] will come back and say, 'Oh, we're only talking about raising taxes on the top income earners.' Well, if you do that, you will capture the income of 50 percent of small businesses in this country."
House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) told Fox News that history has shown extending relief for the top brackets would help stimulate the economy.
"When President Kennedy cut marginal tax rates, when Ronald Reagan cut marginal tax rates, when President [George W.] Bush imposed those tax cuts, they actually generated economic growth," he said. "They expanded the economy."
The Bush tax cuts are slated to expire at the end of the year. Extending all of them, even temporarily, will cost more than $1 trillion.
Democratic leaders in Congress say they intend to extend only the breaks benefiting the middle class.
Some lawmakers estimate the two-year cost will be more than $400 billion when combined with Alternative Minimum Tax relief and fixing the estate tax.