By Bernie Becker - 04/06/12 10:44 PM EDT
President Obama is set to hit the road on Tuesday to talk up his “Buffett Rule,” as Democrats push an election year message of tax fairness and economic equality.
Obama is scheduled to travel to Florida, a swing state that pulled the lever for him in 2008, to press the case for ensuring that those making more than $1 million a year pay a higher tax rate than middle class families.
Obama will travel to Florida just days before the Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on a Buffett Rule bill introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the presumptive Democratic nominee for Wisconsin’s open Senate seat, has rolled out the House version of the measure.
The president unveiled the Buffett Rule after the billionaire investor Warren Buffett noted that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, and Obama has often said that wealthy people like himself need to pay more to help rein in runaway deficits.
The legislation from Whitehouse and Baldwin would seek to ensure that those making seven figures a year pay at least a 30 percent tax rate, with the rate being phased in for taxpayers making between $1 million and $2 million annually. Whitehouse noted this week that top 400 earners in America – many of whom, like Buffett, can take advantage of lower tax rates on capital gains – paid an average rate of roughly 18 percent.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have almost universally ridiculed the Buffett Rule, and the legislation faces a steep climb in both chambers. Obama and congressional Democrats will also be making their push for the rule after the March jobs were not as robust as expected.
But Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who helps craft his party’s messaging efforts, stressed this week that Democrats would bring up the Buffett Rule legislation multiple times, in order to keep the issue front-and-center this election season.
“The middle class can’t bear the burden of reducing the deficit alone,” Schumer told reporters on Thursday.
Voters are broadly supportive of raising taxes on the wealthiest, according to a raft of polls taken over the last couple of years.
But GOP lawmakers, who have steadfastly opposed all Democratic attempts to wring more revenue out of top earners, have also signaled that they are comfortable having an election year debate on tax policy and deficits.
“This is yet another proposal from Democrats that won’t create a single job or lower the price at the pump by a penny, but may have the opposite effect,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement this week.
In fact, GOP lawmakers have introduced their own Buffett Rule plan, which would make it easier for taxpayers to voluntarily contribute revenue toward deficit reduction, and have also latched on to a recent estimate that found that Whitehouse’s bill would raise $47 billion over a decade.
Schumer has said the proposal would raise more if all of the Bush-era tax rates are extended, as Republicans are pushing for.
Florida, which now has 29 electoral votes, is seen as a key battleground this fall, as Obama tries to keep the White House and Democrats and Republicans battle for control of Congress.
While Obama did eventually earn a solid victory in the Sunshine State in 2008, Republicans cleaned up in the state in 2010. In February, Florida also had an unemployment rate, 9.4 percent, roughly a percentage point higher than the country at-large.