Less than a day after President Obama took Republicans to the mat over their push to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the Senate’s most conservative Democrat has reiterated his opposition to letting those cuts expire. But Obama isn’t forcing his hand. In fact, he won’t threaten to veto any attempt to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy.
“I support extending all of the expiring tax cuts until Nebraska’s and the nation’s economy is in better shape, and perhaps longer, because raising taxes in a weak economy could impair recovery,” reads a statement from Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE).
The majority of Democrats support renewing most of the Bush tax cuts. But all the cuts are set to expire at the end of the year, so Congress will soon choose which to extend. Obama wants Congress to send him a bill making the tax cuts on the middle class permanent and letting the cuts for the wealthy expire. But Republicans are holding out for at least a two year extension of all the cuts, and if they, along with Nelson and other Democrats, are willing to filibuster, they could force Obama’s hand.
To that end, Obama’s calling on the GOP to cave. “[W]e should not hold middle class tax cuts hostage any longer,” he said in Cleveland yesterday. “We are ready, this week, to give tax cuts to every American making $250,000 or less.”
But he’s also not prepared to threaten a veto if Congress sends him legislation extending the tax cuts for the wealthy. Obama dodged a series of questions from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who tried to pin him down on a veto.
“[W]ill veto an extension of tax cuts to the wealthy?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“What I am saying is that if we are going to add to our deficit by $35 billion, $95 billion, $100 billion, $700 billion, if that’s the Republican agenda, then I’ve got a whole bunch of better ways to spend that money,” Obama responded.
“But you’re not saying you’re gonna veto it,” Stephanopoulos pressed.
Obama repeated himself: “There are a whole bunch better ways to spend the money.”
“How come you don’t want to say veto?”
“There are a whole bunch better ways to spend the money.”
Unless he commits to that veto, Republicans will have the upper hand in the legislative fight.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.