Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner did not mince words Thursday as the House of Representatives prepared to vote to extend the expiring Bush tax cuts for families with income under $250,000 -- but blocking the Republican effort to permanently extend the cuts for all Americans.
Although no Democrats have agreed with Republicans to make the Bush tax cuts permanent for everyone, 31 moderate House Democrats signed a letter this week calling for a temporary extension of the tax cuts for higher incomes while the country continues to fight its way out of recession.
"I'm tying to catch my breath so I don't refer to this maneuver that's going on today as chicken crap. But this is nonsense, right?" Boehner said. "The election was one month ago. We're 23 months from the next election and the games have already started to set up the next election."
The source of Boehner's ire was a House vote earlier Thursday that will prevent Republicans from offering their own bill to make all of the Bush tax cuts permanent for all Americans, including the highest earners, when the full chamber considers the middle-class cuts later in the day. The House voted 213 to 203 to vote only on the middle-class tax proposal, with 32 Democrats voting with the Republicans to keep the process open.
Earlier, Rep. David Drier (R-Calif.), who offered the Republican alternative, called the Democrats' plans to vote only on their bill "a joke."
"I think it's very evident that this House could, with a majority vote, ensure that we don't increase taxes on any Americans during these very troubling, difficult economic times," Drier said. "The fact of the matter is that any member of this House that votes in favor of the measure before us is voting for a tax increase. They are voting in favor of increasing taxes on American businesses and investors."
But the Democrat leading the House debate, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), argued that there is no reason the House should wait to cut taxes for middle class while they hammer out an agreement on how to handle taxes on wealthier Americans.
"Lowering the tax burden for working families should not be any kind of a partisan fight," she said. "After the last administration and the previous Congress spent billions on two foreign wars and bailing out the big banks that ran roughshod over our economy, isn't it only fair that we do more to help those that are struggling to find work and make ends meet?"
The House is expected to vote to extend the middle-class tax cuts late Thursday, but the bill will face immediate opposition in the Senate, where Republicans remain unanimous that all of the Bush cuts be extended, at least temporarily.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted House and Senate Democrats Thursday as they readied their middle-class proposal. "Right now, House Democrats are getting ready to send us a bill on taxes they know won't pass in the Senate. This is a purely political exercise," McConnell said. "Ask any business owner in America what we could do to help them create jobs and they'll tell you it's to give them certainty about their taxes. . . Wasting time on votes to raise taxes won't create jobs."
Joshua Lederman provided additional reporting for Politics Daily.