Dems blast GOP for wanting to raise taxes on middle-class

The latest salvo from Schumer, who was joined by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) at a news conference on the matter, comes as both sides continue to jockey for the political high ground in the tax debate.

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Democrats have said that their plan to continue Bush-era tax rates for a year for family income up to $250,000 shows that their concern lies with the middle-class, and that Republicans insistence that all current tax rates be extended underscores that the GOP is in the wealthy’s corner.

But GOP lawmakers have said that, given the current sluggish economy, now is not the time to raise taxes on anybody, and that the Democratic plan would raise taxes on some 940,000 businesses next year.

On Tuesday, House Republicans also unveiled their plan, similar to the Senate GOP plan and expected to get a vote next week, to extend current rates on income, capital gains, dividends and the estate tax.

For his part, Schumer said Tuesday that expansions to the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit were meant to be permanent, not temporary. Republicans have made a similar argument in calling for the current top rates on income to be extended.

To bolster their argument, the Senate Democrats cited figures from President Obama’s National Economics Council that say allowing those current provisions to lapse would raise taxes on some 25 million families.

But Republicans have noted those provisions were originally expanded in the 2009 stimulus package, before being extended once more in the 2010 lame-duck tax deal.

“What happened to the failed stimulus being ‘timely, targeted and temporary?’” Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said Monday.

As Republicans have also pointed out, the GOP plan patches the Alternative Minimum Tax in 2013, while the Democratic plan doesn’t – something they say impacts close to 29 million families.

And on Tuesday, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) suggested that the argument over the targeted provisions paled in comparison to the larger discussion over the broader Bush rates and the looming automatic spending cuts.

“I would have to look at the specifics,” Toomey said at the Brookings Institution. “As compared to going over the cliff, it is not a close call.”

The Senate plans to vote on at least the Democratic plan on Wednesday, with Republicans pushing for votes on their plan and one that more closely resembles the White House’s.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that Democrats were still offering majority votes on both the Democratic and GOP plan, but that Republicans were refusing.

As it stands, the American Opportunity Tax Credit allows a 100 percent credit for the first $2,000 of college expenses, and maxes out at $2,500.

The stimulus package expanded the EITC for families with more than three children, and made more income eligible for the refundable part of the child tax credit.