- Associated Press - Saturday, December 4, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Their defeat on the Senate floor is predictable and the speeches have the ring of the recent campaign season.

But Democrats are already eyeing the 2012 elections and eager to engineer a showdown over tax cuts in an attempt to depict Republicans as guardians of the rich.

“Do we want to extend those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires at a time of huge deficits? I would argue vociferously we shouldnt,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Saturday shortly before scheduled votes.

Republicans countered that no one’s taxes should be raised at a time the economy is still recovering from the a recession. “It is the most astounding theory I have ever seen, raise taxes to create jobs,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.

Political maneuvering aside, the day’s events were seen as a prelude to completing negotiations on a compromise that could avert a Jan. 1 tax increase at all levels — as Republicans want.

President Barack Obama has already signaled he is prepared to sign a compromise along those lines, and the White House has been negotiating privately with Republicans on a broader bill that would include Democratic priorities as well.

Among them are an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and extension of additional expiring tax breaks for lower- and middle-income workers even if they don’t make enough to owe the IRS money. College students would also benefit under the White House’s proposals, as would companies that hire the unemployed.

Also part of the discussions is a possible increase in the federal debt limit, which allows the government to continue to borrow to meet its financial obligations.

Democrats advanced two proposals, neither of which was expected to gain the 60 votes needed to advance.

One was a proposal to extend all expiring tax cuts on individuals with incomes of less than $200,000 a year and married couples making less than $250,000. The other, which drew opposition from White House officials, would renew them for all tax filers with incomes of $1 million or less.

“All those people out there in the tea party that are angry about the economics of Washington, they really need to look at this,” Sen. Claire McCaskill., D-Mo., said Friday as Democrats took turns pummeling Republicans.

“They need to pull back the curtain and realize that you’ve got a Republican Party that’s not worried about the people in the tea party,” said McCaskill, who will be on the ballot next year. “They’re worried about people that can’t decide which home to go to over the Christmas holidays.”

Republicans dismissed the attacks as the last gasp of a Democratic Party that lost its majority in the House in midterm elections, surrendered several seats in the Senate and will be forced to share power beginning in January.

“All of this finger-pointing is doing nothing to create jobs,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “It’s a total waste of time.”

Noting that unemployment had risen to 9.8 percent, he added: “Democrats are responding with a vote to slam job creators with a massive tax increase. Millions of out-of-work Americans don’t want show-votes or finger-pointing contests. They want jobs.”

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