At a press conference this morning after Senate Republicans blocked a bid to let Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans expire, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said a large number of Democrats are prepared to continue this fight into next year, even if it means all the Bush tax cuts sunset as scheduled.
In response to a question from TPM, Schumer acknowledged, “there are lots of people in our caucus who do have that appetite. There are some who don’t.”
As he said that, several members joining him on stage — Mark Begich (D-AK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) — nodded in agreement.
Schumer declined to speculate whether Democrats would ultimately take that path. And just minutes earlier, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on the Senate floor that he hopes to have the tax cut issue resolved by Friday, December 17 when, he hopes, the Senate adjourns until next year. But Schumer’s willingness to float the possibility suggests a great deal of unease in the party about the idea of compromising with the Republicans on conservative terms, and extending all the Bush tax cuts temporarily.
If Democrats were to follow through with that strategy, it would turn the tax cut debate on its head. In a ferocious spin battle, Republicans would accuse Democrats of allowing the largest tax increase in U.S. history, while Democrats would blame the hikes on the GOP for holding the extensions hostage until the wealthiest Americans are given additional tax relief.
The White House insists it wants the tax cut impasse bridged before the end of the year, suggesting a large rift between President Obama and a significant number of Democrats on Capitol Hill.
It’s difficult to imagine that Dems will carry out this strategy, or that they even have enough votes to do it. Discussions between the White House and Republicans are ongoing, and if they reach an agreement, 41 Democrats would have to hold firm to sustain a filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell today said he’s hopeful the issue will be resolved on terms the GOP can support.
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.