Democratic leaders to press Obama to take tough line on tax cuts

House Democratic leaders will meet with President Obama on Monday and press him to take a tougher negotiating line with Republicans on extending the Bush-era tax cuts. 

The meeting with Obama and Senate Democratic leaders follows a separate meeting between the leaders and Vice President Joe Biden on Monday. 

The top-level talks come as House Democrats are increasing pressure on the White House to stand firm in securing middle-class priorities in exchange for acceding to a Republican demand that tax cuts for the wealthy be extended temporarily.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) met with Biden at the vice president’s residence on Saturday. The message they are delivering in the meetings on Saturday and this afternoon is that House Democrats “are not going to just rubber stamp” a deal that the White House cuts with congressional Republicans, a Democrat familiar with the negotiations told The Hill.

Pelosi, Hoyer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) are set to attend the meeting with Obama.


The House last week approved Obama’s proposal to extend permanently tax cuts for middle income Americans while allowing rates for top earners to expire, but Senate Democrats were unable to overcome a Republican filibuster of the bill on Saturday.

Congressional Democrats, particularly liberals, are unhappy with reports that Obama might agree to a temporary across-the-board extension of the tax cuts in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits that would be offset by cuts elsewhere, as Republicans want.

House Democrats are pushing for an extension of middle class tax breaks included in last year’s stimulus package, for the unemployment insurance extension to come without offsetting spending cuts and, in a less likely scenario, for tax cuts for the wealthy to be extended only temporarily, for one or two years, while the middle class cuts are made permanent, according to the Democratic source. Republicans are pressing for a three-year extension of all the rates and would be unlikely to agree to a scenario in which the middle income tax cuts expire at a different time from the tax cuts for the wealthy.

The White House is urging a quick resolution to the tax impasse so the Senate can move on to other White House priorities before the 111th Congress ends, such as the ratification of the New Start treaty with Russia and a repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military. But House leaders are not likely to agree to a deal before briefing the entire caucus on Tuesday evening.

The Democratic source said if House leaders are not satisfied with the deal Obama strikes with Republicans, they could force the GOP to find the majority of votes in the House for extending the tax cuts, along with conservative Democrats who already back the Republican position. “That’s a possibility,” the Democrat said.


This story was updated at 2:56 p.m.