House Dems to call for expiration of Bush tax rates in debt-limit deal

A group of House Democrats is calling for any deal to raise the debt ceiling to bring about the end of the Bush tax rates for the wealthy.

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), also say that, following last week’s weak job report, they are concerned that certain decreases in federal spending could hurt the economy’s recovery.

“At this point, both government and private-sector economists agree that sharp immediate cuts in government spending risk plunging our economy into a double-dip recession that will cost further jobs and ultimately worsen our fiscal situation,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill.

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They added that allowing the Bush tax rates for the wealthiest to expire at the end of next year would by itself “stop the growth of the deficit over the next decade.”

The letter is expected to be delivered to the White House on Friday, a day after Vice President Biden and lawmakers from both parties met again to discuss a potential agreement to raise the debt ceiling. 

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the minority whip and a participant in the talks, said beforehand the meeting would likely at least touch on revenues. Republicans have said new tax revenue is the one deficit-reduction approach they will not consider in any deal to increase the debt limit, arguing that Americans want to see Washington get more serious about rolling back spending.

But Democrats have said taxes need to be part of the discussion.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other top GOP lawmakers have also stressed that they want the amount of spending cuts to surpass any increase in the borrowing limit.

It could take an increase of more than $2 trillion to get the debt limit through next year, so Republicans have said they would consider short-term increases as well.

Blumenauer has so far found a handful of Democratic colleagues to sign on to the letter and will accept further signatures until Friday morning. 

In the letter, the lawmakers also continue to slam the House GOP’s fiscal 2012 budget, asserting that its approach to spending would imperil job creation.

“This job loss scenario is already playing itself out in the United Kingdom, where steep cuts in government spending have been rewarded by the worst employment data in seven months,” they write.

The lawmakers’ message comes shortly after the 10th anniversary of the first round of major tax cuts, which essentially lowered individual rates across-the-board. The cuts' effectiveness continues to be debated by the two parties.

The president campaigned in 2008 on letting the rates expire at the end of 2010 on annual family income above $250,000 a year. But all the cuts were eventually extended through the end of next year, in a deal hashed out by the White House and congressional Republicans.

GOP lawmakers want to keep the rates past the end of next year, but Obama has signaled that he will not extend them for the highest earners again. Some Democrats have also suggested raising the rates only on annual income above $1 million a year.