By Alexander Bolton - 12/07/10 07:02 PM EST
A deal between President Obama and congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years has met with an angry backlash from Senate Democrats.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in stating his opposition to the deal.
“I’m opposed right now,” said Udall, who added that some provisions in the package make sense, such as extended unemployment benefits, but he questioned whether it does enough to help middle-class families given its cost.
Udall also said he opposed the proposal to set the estate tax at 35 percent for inheritances worth more than $5 million for the next two years. He would prefer a lower exemption.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said she couldn’t believe Obama agreed to extend tax cuts for families earning more than a $1 million after pledging in the 2008 presidential campaign to set the threshold at $250,000 for extended tax cuts.
“If I end up voting for this package, it will not be silently, it will be being dragged to that position having firmly established that I disagree strongly with some provisions and can’t imagine this president leading the country in that direction,” Landrieu said.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said Obama paid a “ransom” to get a deal with Republicans.
“I don’t like what I see because it looks like there was a ransom paid with a kind of ‘Let them eat cake’ attitude,” said Lautenberg.
Lautenberg noted the media has characterized the 13-month extension of unemployment benefits as an afterthought to the two-year extension of the Bush tax rates. He believes this shows that the tax cuts for the wealthy were a bigger prize in the negotiations than extended unemployment insurance.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she was concerned about the proposal to cut payroll taxes that fund Social Security by 2 percentage points.
“The payroll tax, I think we need to be careful of that,” she said. “You can’t have everyone saying, 'We got to reform Social Security, the trust fund is fragile — and, oh by the way, you don’t have to pay into it.'
“I’m concerned that this will be the beginning of the slippery slope of getting rid of the payroll tax” and beginning to privatize Social Security, she added.
Mikulski said she would need to know “a lot more” before deciding how to vote.
The Democratic senators made their comments as they were entering a lunch meeting with Biden to discuss the deal.
Some Democrats defended the deal.
Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), one of the most conservative members of the Democratic conference, said the tax deal is “moving in the right direction.”