Dems to hold separate vote on extension of middle-class tax cuts

Democrats will hold a separate vote during the lame-duck on a proposal to extend Bush-era tax cuts on income below $250,000, an aide to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday.

"There will be a vote on middle class only," the aide said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seemed to confirm that strategy Thursday. Asked if lawmakers would have the opportunity next month to vote separately on the middle-class benefit, Pelosi responded, "That is the plan."  

The plan, though, could change. The Speaker, for instance, did not address the issue of whether the House would retain the two-vote strategy even if it becomes clear that it won't fly in the Senate, where Republican leaders are insisting the extensions be considered as a package.

But the decision marks a victory for liberals, who've been urging Democratic leaders to stage separate votes on benefits for middle-income and wealthy families. The strategy will allow Democratic opponents of the upper-income benefit to oppose that measure without harming less wealthy folks.

Most Democrats want to extend the breaks only on income below $250,000 each year (for families) or $200,000 (for individuals). Republicans, meanwhile, want to extend the cuts for everyone.

President Obama pushed for an extenstion of the tax cut for the middle class but, after historic Democratic losses in the midterm election, signaled he would be open to talks on an across-the-board extension.

The Democrats' plan costs roughly $3 trillion over the next decade, while the GOP proposal would cost $3.7 trillion. Neither party is proposing to offset the lost revenue with changes elsewhere in the budget.Both tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress intervenes.

-- This story was updated at 6:26 p.m.