- Associated Press - Thursday, December 9, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Democratic Caucus has voted to reject President Obama’s tax deal with Republicans in its current form.

By voice vote, the rank and file Democrats passed a resolution Thursday that said the tax package should not come to the floor of the House for consideration. Rep. Peter DeFazio, Oregon Democrat, introduced the resolution.

Said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat: “If it’s take it or leave it, we’ll leave it.”

Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, said “it’s a pretty clear message. We don’t like the bill.” Rep. Shelley Berkley, Nevada Democrat, told reporters that “one person voted against” keeping the bill off the floor for a vote. “That would be me,” she said.

Michael Steel, spokesman for Rep. John Boehner, Ohio Republican, noted that Mr. Obama has said failing to stop all of the tax hikes scheduled for Jan. 1 would have serious consequences for the economy. He said, “House Republicans agree.”

Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the House’s No. 3 Democrat, said when asked what comes next, “I don’t know. We’ll wait and see.”

Earlier Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats were in a very rough position, saying that continuing to fight the compromise bill might place the middle class and jobless at further risk.

“We’re going to have an increase in taxes on working Americans … if we continue to have gridlock,” Mr. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said on MSNBC.

Speaking Thursday at a White House event promoting American exports, Mr. Obama said the vote will determine whether the economy “moves forward or backward.”

The president again pressed Congress to pass the agreement, saying it has the potential to create millions of jobs. He said if it fails, Americans would see smaller paychecks and would result in fewer jobs.

The deal that Obama struck with the GOP would let rich and poor Americans keep Bush-era tax cuts that were scheduled to expire this month. Even so, 54 House Democrats wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying they were against the deal, and that was before the party caucus decision to deny it a vote on the House floor.

Led by Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont, the 54 Democrats said they were against “acceding to Republican demands to extend the Bush tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.”

“We’re paying a king’s ransom,” Mr. Welch said in an interview. “We didn’t need to and couldn’t afford to.”

The 54 Democrats, by themselves, would not be enough to block the package in the House, depending on how much support it gets from Republicans.

After Mr. Obama publicly defended the plan for a third day Wednesday, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. met with Democratic lawmakers in the Capitol for a second day, several Democrats predicted the measure will pass, mainly because of extensive Republican support.

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