House Democrats will put Republicans on record this week voting down an extension of the middle-income Bush tax cuts unless the tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans are also extended.
On Monday, Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sander Levin (D-MI) will introduce legislation mirroring a bill Senate Democrats passed last week to extend the Bush tax cuts up to a family’s first $250,000 in income.
“We should take it up, we’re going introduce it, it should pass,” Levin told reporters on a conference call. “This issue of holding hostage middle class tax cuts for those with income over a million essentially is the first order of business in my judgment that has to be addressed and resolved. … [T]here’s a hammerlock and we need to break it, and there’s a real opportunity to do that …”
A floor vote is expected Thursday.
Levin added that he’s comfortable characterizing the GOP’s position as essentially a no-holds-barred defense of tax cuts for millionaires because “81 percent of the income over 250 [thousand dollars] is income over a million. And that’s the basic reason for the focus because so much of the benefit here goes to millionaires.”
At his weekly press conference last Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner said he’ll put the measure on the floor for consideration. “If our Democrat colleagues want to offer the president’s plan or the Senate Democrat plan, we’re more than happy to give them a vote.”
On the Senate floor Monday morning Majority Leader Harry Reid warned House Republicans that voting to extend all of the Bush tax cuts — including for high-income earners — would be a “waste of time,” since the Senate has preemptively voted down the same legislation. The Senate passed bill, he argued, is the only viable vehicle for preventing taxes from increasing on middle class Americans.
Assuming neither side blinks before the election, the House and Senate-passed bills will serve as potential models for how Congress will proceed in the event of a Romney or Obama victory, respectively. Levin suggested he’s well aware of the political dynamic.
“As long as this is a stranglehold on action, it’s hard to know how we resolve anything else,” Levin said. “I wish I could be more optimistic.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.