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Obama tries to quell Dems’ anger over tax plan
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama scheduled a short-notice press conference Tuesday to sell a new tax cut compromise that makes big concessions to Republicans as the White House scurried to assuage angry Democrats.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. traveled to the Capitol to lobby senators as liberal groups attacked the proposal that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, including the richest, for two years. They argued that Mr. Obama had abandoned a long-held position in fashioning the compromise.
Mr. Obama promised in his 2008 campaign — and many times since — that these breaks would be continued only for the middle-class. But some in his own party and liberal groups attacked it, and even the Democratic leadership in Congress gave it a cool, noncommittal reception.
Mr. Obama’s question-and-answer session was scheduled to take place before a closed House Democratic caucus, where liberal lawmakers were all but certain to lambaste it.
Besides holding current tax rates in place for all, the proposal would extend unemployment benefits and reduce payroll taxes for a year, which would help many lower-income Americans.
The liberal group MoveOn said its 5 million members oppose the plan, saying the wealthiest Americans don’t need tax cuts that were scheduled to expire this month. “The president’s commitment to bipartisanship should not mean leaving principles behind,” MoveOn said.
Mr. Biden urged congressional Democrats to quickly embrace the plan, saying Congress needs to move on to other issues before the Democrats lose control of the House in January.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the compromise plan shows that Democrats want to help low- and middle-income workers while the GOP’s chief concern is the wealthiest Americans.
“We will continue discussions with the president and our caucus in the days ahead,” Mrs. Pelosi, California Demorat, said in a statement issued 18 hours after Mr. Obama laid out his plan.
Top Democratic staffers speculated that, for now, more than half of House Democrats seem inclined to oppose the plan. Republican aides said many GOP members probably would back it, because it grants their chief goal of extending income tax cuts for all Americans.
Mr. Obama has said that he still prefers to let the tax cuts expire for households earning more than $250,000 a year. Mr. Obama, while acknowledging Democratic unrest, agreed to extend all the tax breaks for two years, noting that Republicans wanted a permanent extension.
Mr. Obama said Monday the concession was the only way to prevent a congressional impasse that would cause the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 to expire, as scheduled, for all taxpayers. With 9.8 percent of Americans unemployed, he said, that would be “a chilling prospect.”
Liberal groups were furious at his willingness to bend, but Mr. Obama said he rejects “symbolic victories” that hurt average Americans.
His plan also would renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, and grant a one-year reduction in Social Security taxes paid by workers but not by employers.
The president had barely stopped speaking Monday before top Republicans applauded his proposals, while most Democrats kept a sullen silence.
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