By Mike Lillis - 06/07/12 05:56 PM EDT
Former President Bill Clinton's recent suggestion that all Bush-era tax rates should be extended in the near term will not affect the push from congressional Democrats to end those breaks for the highest earners, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this week.
Clinton churned headlines Tuesday when he said he doesn't "have a problem" with extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans if the move is temporary – a remark his spokesman has since walked back.
But Pelosi was unfazed Thursday, saying House Democrats still want the benefit for the rich to expire in January, as it's scheduled to do.
"The Bush tax cuts for the high end [earners] just increase the deficit, do not create jobs and they should come to an end," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "I urge the Speaker [John Boehner (R-Ohio)] to pass the middle-income tax cuts [alone], freeing us from that stranglehold that the high-end tax cuts have had on our economy."
With the Bush-era rates for all income levels scheduled to expire Jan. 1, Pelosi last month asked Boehner to stage an immediate vote on extending the cuts only for those earning less than $1 million per year. The additional revenues, she said, will be used to cut deficit spending.
President Obama has cast his deficit reduction net even wider, hoping to allow the rates to increase on individuals earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000.
Boehner and other GOP leaders have rejected both strategies, vowing to extend the lower rates for all incomes. The Republicans argue that many of the nation's top earners represent small businesses, and hiking their taxes will only discourage hiring amid a jobs crisis.
"One of the biggest challenges that small businesses are facing is that they have no idea what the tax rates are going to be next year," Boehner told reporters Thrsday. "As a matter of fact, they’re looking at a giant tax increase come Jan. 1."
The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) has estimated the number of high-income earners – those earning more than $250,000 – who file as a small business is roughly 3 percent.
Complicating the debate for the Democrats, Clinton told CNBC Tuesday that partisan gridlock in Congress likely means lawmakers “probably" have to delay action on the Bush tax rates "until early next year.”
In the meantime, he said, "I don't have any problem with extending all of it now."
Matt McKenna, Clinton's spokesman, was quick to walk back those remarks, saying Clinton “does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again.”
But the initial remarks weren't overlooked by Republicans, who quickly pounced.
"Even Bill Clinton came out for it before he was against it,” Boehner said Wednesday.
Pelosi on Thursday said Clinton's comments don't reflect the former president's real position, saying she's "not aware" that Clinton has "stuck with the original interpretation that people had of what [he] said."