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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Bill Clinton Back On Center Stage

Neon Tommy |
December 11, 2010 | 12:12 a.m. PST

It was like déjà vu all over again Friday. William Jefferson Clinton standing behind the podium and breezily holding forth in the White House press briefing room.

Clinton had come to meet with President Barack Obama to give his support for the embattled compromise tax bill and then the former and current commanders-in-chief jointly appeared before the waiting press.

Obama made only brief remarks and then quickly ceded the spotlight to Clinton.  It wasn’t long before the former was eclipsed by the former. Says The Washington Post:

After a few minutes, Obama seemed to conclude that he would be better served by being out of the picture than as a bystander. "I've been keeping the first lady waiting for about half an hour, so I'm going to take off," he said.

Clinton responded, "Well, I - I don't want to make her mad. Please go."And with that, Clinton had the stage to himself. He had delivered his most important message, about the tax deal, right at the top of his remarks. "The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs and to minimize the chances that it will slip back," he said.

Clinton made a direct appeal to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party which has been balking on the deal cut between Obama and the congressional Republican leadership. Liberals are angry that the compromise extends tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans for another two years. 

"I think this a net plus. And you know how I feel, I think the people that benefit most should pay most. That's always been my position -- not for class warfare reasons, for reasons of fairness and rebuilding the middle class in America.,” Clinton said. "But we have the distribution of authority we have now in the congress, and the one we're gonna have in January. And I think this is a much much better agreement than would be reached were we to wait until January, and I think it will have a much more positive agreement on the economy. So for whatever it's worth, that's what I think."

It’s expected that the tax measure will come up for a vote on the Senate floor where it is expected to pass. Some outraged Democrats, however, are not yet throwing in the towel. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who caucuses with the Democrats, stole a page right out of a Frank Capra movie Friday. As former President Clinton was on the tube lobbing for passage of the bill, Sanders held the Senate floor solo for nearly nine in a passionate protest move to hold up any possible action on the bill.

The measure also faces an uncertain faith in the House, where it is likely to be voted on later next week. President Obama has expressed confidence that his package will be approved, but there is a growing coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans who vow to kill it. 

The L.A. Times reports:  Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said that while he knew of only a handful of Republicans like himself who were planning to vote against the tax deal, "that list is growing."

One new name on the list, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), told supporters in an e-mail, "I'm not going to be bullied into voting for things that will hurt our country because politicians in Washington ignored the problem until it was a crisis."
Earlier this week the White House strained to sweeten the deal to make it  more palatable to liberals but that strategy might be insufficient.  More funding was added for renewable energy development, a key Democratic goal.

Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) said the clean-energy provision to the Senate bill was a step forward, but not enough. "The big problem,” he said, “is just the incredible economic disparity in the benefits of this package," he said in an interview, citing a provision that would impose a 35% tax on estates larger than $5 million, which many Democrats complain is too generous.



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