House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called on Republicans to bring up a bill extending middle-class tax rates under a suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
The California Democrat's request came up in a debate over a GOP resolution that would give the House the authority to take up noncontroversial suspension bills while the chamber waits for a fiscal-cliff deal. That rule, which is expected to pass later Wednesday, was mocked by Democrats as an excuse to consider only easy bills for the rest of the year rather than tough bills related to taxes, spending and other priorities both sides have pushed.
"You're bringing up a rule that says we should ... have a suspicion authority? Let's bring the middle-income tax cut up under suspension," Pelosi said on the floor.
"I believe and I am wiling to take the chance that this House will give over two-thirds of a vote for the middle-income tax cut."
"Do I detect your smirk to mean that you don't think Republicans will vote for a middle-income tax cut, Mr. Sessions?" she asked. "Should I take it to mean you will continue to hold middle-income tax cuts hostage, giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country?
"The unfairness of it is appalling," Pelosi added. "The fact that it increases the deficit is disgraceful, and that it does not create jobs is a big mistake for us to make."
Other Democrats joined Pelosi to call for a vote on the Senate-passed tax bill, but Sessions reminded Democrats several times that in early August, the House approved a bill extending all the current tax rates.
"The House on Aug. 1 did exactly what she is suggesting today, and that is to take action on what the future tax rates would be in this country," Sessions said. "And on a bipartisan basis, 256-171, this House of Representatives said, let's understand that now is a bad time to raise taxes on the American people."
Republicans have said generally that they see no need to take up the Senate bill extending only the middle-class tax rates because taxes, spending and other issues are part of the negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff. However, some Republicans have said it might make sense to take up the Senate bill to resolve the tax issue quickly and push other issues into next year.
Even if a middle-class tax bill does come up as part of a fiscal-cliff deal, it is not expected to come up under a suspension of the rules.
On the rule allowing for suspension bills, Pelosi and other Democrats said they cannot support it unless Republicans say they will bring up the middle-class tax bill under suspension.
"I refuse to give this blank check to a majority that has yet to show any interest in completing the outstanding work," Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said.
Members of both parties seemed to acknowledge that Congress would be in session right around Christmastime, while a resolution to the fiscal cliff is negotiated.
"The reality is that Congress will have to remain in session for the holiday season, because we're the ones that said we will help solve the problems of this country," Sessions said. "Here we are, we're here. We're going to stay here in town. Republicans have a resolve to stay here."
"We always have the treat of working Christmas, and if we have to do it to get things done, I'm certainly willing to do that," Slaughter said.