Boehner rejects Pelosi appeal for immediate vote on tax rates

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday rejected a proposal by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to vote now on extending current tax rates for Americans earning less than $1 million a year.

In a letter to the Speaker last week, Pelosi offered Democratic support for an immediate vote to prevent a tax hike on middle-income Americans at the end of the year. Republicans want to extend the complete set of George W. Bush-era tax rates, and they are planning a House vote on that plan in July.

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“I believe that raising taxes at this point in our recovery is a big mistake,” Boehner said at a Capitol press conference when asked about Pelosi’s letter.

He reiterated an oft-cited GOP argument that raising taxes on wealthy individuals would also hit small businesses.

“Even under Ms. Pelosi’s argument, half of those who would get this higher tax are small-business people that are sub-Chapter S or other types of pass-through entities,” Boehner said. “At a time when we are trying to help small businesses create jobs, this proposal would kill jobs.”

The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) has estimated that the number of people filing as small businesses and earning $250,000 or more is closer to 3 percent. The percentage of income taxed at the higher rate, however, could be much higher. When Democrats were pushing last year for a surtax on millionaires to pay for priorities like the payroll tax, Boehner and other Republicans pointed to JCT research asserting the surtax would hit roughly one-third of small-business income.

At a closed-door conference meeting before his presser, Boehner told rank-and-file Republicans in explicit terms to avoid being distracted by Democratic attempts to shift focus away from the economy. 

“Let’s call bull----, bull----,” he said, a GOP aide confirmed. “This election is about jobs, jobs, jobs.”

He also cast doubt on the likelihood that Congress would be able to prevent student loan rates from doubling before they are set to at the end of June. He blamed the Senate.

Boehner’s comments were first reported by Politico.

A GOP aide noted to The Hill that Boehner told Republicans that Congress could fix the loan rates retroactively and did not dismiss the importance of the issue but characterized the deadline as essentially phony.

This story was updated at 12:34 p.m.