Hoyer accuses GOP of holding middle class ‘hostage’ on cutting tax rates

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Friday accused Republicans of holding the middle class “hostage” in the fight over tax rates.

Reiterating a White House argument, Hoyer said the GOP is holding lower tax rates for households with annual income below $250,000 hostage to ensuring lower rates for those making more than that threshold.

“We ought not to hold hostage middle-class tax cuts,” Hoyer told CNN’s "Starting Point" on Friday. “Look, we all agree that middle class taxpayers ought not get a tax increase on Jan. 1. It’s not good for them and not good for the economy. We ought to pass that – the Senate has passed a bipartisan bill that called for that. Tom Cole, the former chairman of the Republican Campaign said just earlier this week we ought to pass that, and I agree with him.”  

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) this week said the GOP should lock in Bush-era tax rates for those making less than $250,000 ahead of the Jan. 1 deadline and return to the table in the new year to negotiate further cuts for the wealthy.  

Cole also used the “hostage” analogy in an interview with Fox News earlier this week.  

“If we don’t believe taxes should go up on anybody, why can’t we accept a deal that takes 98 percent out and still leaves us free to fight on the other grounds,” he said. “I’m not for using the American people for leverage or as a hostage.”  

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he disagreed with the strategy, and other Republicans also criticized it publicly. In closed-door meetings, Cole said he heard mixed views on the suggestion.  

Republicans on Thursday resoundingly rejected a White House offer that would include $1.6 trillion in tax increases, $400 billion in spending cuts and a more permanent increase in the debt ceiling.  

Democrats are portraying it as an opening bid in negotiations meant to provoke a counteroffer, and justify the considerably smaller amount of spending cuts by arguing they already ceded massive cuts during the 2011 debt ceiling debate that resulted in the Budget Control Act.  

“First of all, the compromise – we have already cut $1.7 trillion of spending,” Hoyer continued. “That seems to be forgotten. We cut it in the Budget Control Act. That’s not right – you’ve done it, you pocket it, you want something more. The administration is saying, 'Look this is what we have done, this is what we agreed to and we’ve done this in a bipartisan fashion.' ”  

Hoyer added that Americans showed they supported the president’s plan on Election Day.  

“We had an election, and the president said we needed more revenues and we needed more revenues from those most able to pay. He won the election, the American people expanded the majority in the Senate and expanded the numbers of members we had. We had an election. There were two very distinct points of view put forward to the American public. That is that we needed more revenues. The wealthier needed to make a greater contribution and the other side said, 'No, that’s not the case.' ”