By Mike Lillis - 12/06/11 05:48 PM EST
A leading House Democrat said Tuesday that Republican resistance to tax hikes on the wealthy could erode as Congress searches for ways to offset an extension of the payroll tax holiday.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democratic whip, acknowledged the GOP’s entrenched opposition to raising taxes on millionaires, as Senate Democrats have proposed to offset their tax package. But broad public support for taxing the rich, he suggested, could force Republicans to swallow the Democrats' plan.
“I frankly think the millionaires tax is putting a lot heat on the Republicans,” Hoyer told reporters during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol. “They have been pretty consistent in their opposition to that … [but] these are people who make a net taxable income of $1 million.”
Hiking the millionaires surtax by 1.9 percent, Hoyer said, “is not going to impact, at all, according to any economist, job creation in America
“What it will do,” he added, “is give us resources to protect the most vulnerable in America who have lost jobs in this very difficult economy.”
Recent polls indicate strong public support for hiking taxes on the wealthy to rein in deficit spending, bolstering the Democrats’ position. The surveys haven’t been overlooked by Democratic leaders, who are hoping to portray the Republicans as defenders of the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
“Frankly, a political party that is ready to devastate government programs on the cross of gold of the richest in America, is not a party that, I think, will be sustained by the American people,” Hoyer said.
The comments arrive as lawmakers are scrambling to pass an end-of-the-year package to extend the payroll tax holiday for workers, extend insurance benefits for the unemployed and prevent a steep pay cut from hitting doctors who treat Medicare patients.
A similar — though much larger — spending package passed last December without offsets, but facing voter outrage over soaring deficits, lawmakers from both parties are hoping to pay for the provisions this time around.
President Obama has jumped into the fray, criticizing Republicans — who have said offsetting tax cuts is unnecessary — for switching course in the current payroll tax debate.
“When the Republicans took over the House at the beginning of this year, they explicitly changed the rules to say that tax cuts don't have to be paid for,” Obama said Monday at the White House. “So forgive me a little bit of confusion when I hear folks insisting on tax cuts being paid for.”