With Democrats seeking to brand the GOP as middle class tax hikers ahead of a Wednesday vote on tax plans, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican says he’ll “find out” why his party’s competing proposal omits extensions of three expiring tax cuts aimed at middle-income Americans.
“I’m just hearing that for the first time,” Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m going to find out why that is not included.” He added that omission of those three items would still not amount to a good reason to vote against the GOP plan.
Two senior Senate Republican aides sang a different tune than Kyl, defending the expiration of the tax credits by arguing that they were advertised as temporary along with the rest of the 2009 stimulus package. One accused Democrats of seeking to “continue stimulus spending through the tax code.”
At a Capitol press briefing Tuesday, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) hammered the GOP for omitting three tax cuts that expire at the end of the year: the Earned Income Tax Credit for middle income workers with qualifying children, the college tuition credit and expanded child tax credit. The Democrats’ competing tax proposal extends them. Schumer called them permanent improvements to the tax code designed to help the middle class.
TPM posed the question at GOP leadership’s weekly press conference. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ceded to Kyl.
“If that is the excuse to vote against a bill, which would keep Americans from having their taxes increased, that does not sound like a very legitimate excuse,” Kyl said. He summed up the Democrats’ argument as, “I’m going to let everybody have their taxes go up — $4 trillion — because one little provision was not included.”
The three tax breaks, extended in 2010, are relatively minor in the scheme of tax hikes set to take effect in Jan. But they serve as a handy messaging device for Democrats, who are hoping to puncture the GOP’s claim — central to their pretext for extending tax cuts for the rich — that unlike Democrats, Republicans don’t want to raise taxes on anybody.
“It’s a myth that they’re opposed to raising all taxes,” said Harkin. “As the GOP plan makes clear, they’re presently willing to let middle class taxes rise.”
The Senate is scheduled to hold a cloture motion Wednesday afternoon to proceed to simple-majority votes on the Democratic and Republican tax plans. The former would extend Bush-era tax tax cuts on incomes under $250,000; the latter would extend all the Bush-era rates. McConnell announced Wednesday that Republicans will not filibuster the motion, after indicating otherwise on Tuesday.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.