The Democrats will need complete party cohesion to pass Barack Obama's extension of all Bush tax cuts except those for the top two income brackets. But now, predictably, Sen. Ben Nelson and other Democratic "centrists" are voicing their bullshit opposition.
While Barack Obama and other administration members have (so far) stuck with their view that members of the top two income tax brackets — those making hundreds of thousands of dollars — can suffer a 4-percentage-point marginal rate increase, well, they don't write laws. And "populist" speeches can only manipulate congressional votes so much. It's crucial here to remember that if Congress doesn't do anything, then every taxpayer in America will face a tax hike next year, and Democrats, who control the White House and both chambers of Congress, will get the blame. The Republicans, rest assured, are very conscious of this political scenario. And unless Democrats can peel off a couple of stray Senate Republicans for their plan — unlikely, given the GOP caucus pressure they'll face — it will be filibustered. Democrats know that they must get middle-class tax cuts extended somehow. It's hard to see how this doesn't end in a compromise: extending all Bush tax cuts for two years. (And then in two years, we'll have this exact same debate, and then two years after that, and so on. Congress!)
But the Democrats' more immediate problem is a familiar one: keeping their own party together! Specifically the odious Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who sounded his concerns today about making rich people pay 4% more in income tax on every dollar earned after $250,000:
"I support extending all of the expiring tax cuts until Nebraska's and the nation's economy is in better shape, and perhaps longer, because raising taxes in a weak economy could impair recovery," Nelson said in a statement Thursday.
"Continuing all of the tax cuts could provide certainty for families and businesses in Nebraska and nationwide," Nelson said. "Today, many businesses are sitting on cash because of uncertainty, which is holding back economic development across America."
Ben Nelson is an evil monster from Hell. He didn't care much about Nebraska's "families" when he was helping Republicans block the (previously uncontroversial) extension of unemployment insurance, which people pay for while employed and expect to receive in between jobs. No, then it was all about the "deficit." He knew the economy was suffering from a lack of demand/food, but still, the Deficit was more important. Well, it looks like he's changed his mind, hasn't he? Because extending tax cuts for the rich adds many, many billions of dollars to the deficit.
Meanwhile in the House, we have the previously deficit-conscious, conservative Blue Dog Democrats, abandoning their deeply felt budgetary concerns:
* Rep Jim Himes of Conneticut says he supports a termporary extension, because earning $250,000 annually "does not make you really rich."
* Rep Bobby Bright of Alabama came out against ending the tax cuts, because "a vast majority of my constituents ... don't believe in tax increases on anybody at this point in time."
* Rep Ron Klein of Florida wants a one year extension of the tax cuts, including those for the rich, because "right now, our top economic priority has to be job creation."
* Rep Gerry Connolly of Virginia says the tax cuts should remain because the recovery remains "fragile."
* Rep Gary Peters of Michigan wants the cuts to continue lest we "jeopardize economic recovery."
* Rep Harry Mitchell of Arizona says he "strongly" opposes letting the tax cuts lapse because "we need to encourage investment, not discourage it."
It's the same old thing. Happens every time, and with the same players, whenever the Obama administration proposes something solid and which Democratic and independents voters support. It's a gradual breakdown.
But maybe something different will happen this time!
[Ben Nelson image via AP]