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Lame-Duck Congress Has Last Chance To Extend Bush Tax Cuts

Susan Shimotsu |
November 9, 2010 | 2:27 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter


President Obama has expressed a willingness to compromise with the Republicans over the Bush tax cuts. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
President Obama has expressed a willingness to compromise with the Republicans over the Bush tax cuts. (Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy)
When a lame-duck Congressional session convenes Nov. 15, the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts will be on top of the agenda. 

As it stands, the cuts are set to expire on Dec. 31. While there is little opposition to renewing them for the middle class – couples making under $250,000 and individuals under $200,000 – the long-standing debate is renewal for the upper class. Democrats have traditionally sought to repeal high-income tax cuts in order to pay for other programs or to reduce the overall deficit.  

Since Democrats controlled Congress the past four years, it was assumed they would extend the cuts for the middle class and let the cuts for the highest bracket expire. However, since meetings on the issue began a year ago there has not been a consensus within either party and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) chose to delay a vote until after the midterm elections.

 Ron Schmidt, political science professor at CSU Long Beach, believes the Democrats had to push back the vote because they were afraid it would cost them re-election.

 “I think they were afraid of the political consequences,” said Schmidt. “I think that the 60-vote rule in the Senate has been very damaging to the Democratic agenda. They haven’t had the 60 votes needed to get anything done.”  

Now that the elections are over, President Obama has shown a willingness to compromise with the Republicans in order to preserve tax cuts for the middle class. He has already called a meeting with Congressional leaders from both parties to discuss economic plans, with a heavy emphasis on the tax cuts.

"How that negotiation works itself out, I think it's too early to say,” said Obama during a press conference last week. “But, you know, this is going to be one of my top priorities.”

While Obama had previously been against any extension for the highest tax bracket, it looks like he may agree to allow a two-year extension for upper-class families if it means making the Bush tax cuts permanent for the middle class.

Schmidt thinks Obama’s loosening on the issue could be the result of one of two reasons.

“[Obama] has a natural tendency to want to be collaborative to work with both parties to get things done,” he said. “Or it could be he looked at the votes and realized he is not going to be able to get any tax cuts approved because there’s no political support.”

The lame-duck Congress will most likely work into December, though there is not a specific timetable set. The other major issue on the agenda is the lack of spending bills that have been passed. 

Reach reporter Susan Shimotsu, click here.
Follow her on Twitter: @susanfromtx.



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