Hoyer: Dems pondering pre-election tax-cut vote

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer has left open the possibility of a holding a vote on extending middle-class tax cuts before the Nov. 2 midterm elections, although he suggested a vote during the post-election “lame duck” session is more likely.

When the Maryland Democrat was asked Tuesday during a Capitol news briefing if his party will call for a vote soon on tax breaks set to expire at the end of the year under the chamber’s streamlined suspension calendar, he said the scenario “is certainly under consideration.”

Such a move would require a two-third majority for passage instead of the usual simple majority. But the move also would prohibit amendments, thus guarding against a Republican request for a “motion to recommit,” a procedural tactic that could indefinitely stall the measure.

Democrats and Republicans are locked in a game of political chicken over George W. Bush-era tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year. Democrats want to extend the tax cuts only for individuals earning less than $200,000 or couples making less than $250,000. Republicans want to extend the breaks for taxpayers in all income brackets.

President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders, who control both chambers of Congress, say they are committed to holding a tax vote this year for those under the $200,000/$250,000 threshold. But with the specter of possible defections from party moderates and conservatives, Democratic leaders have wavered on the question of whether and when to hold the politically delicate vote.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hinted on Friday that Democrats haven’t given up on holding a pre-election tax-cut vote in the House.

“We will retain the right to proceed as we choose and would take it one day at a time,” the California Democrat said.

A pre-election vote in the Senate appears unlikely at the moment. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last week the Nevada Democrat would hold off on the issue until after the midterms, blaming the delay on Senate Republicans who have threatened to block a middle-class tax-cut vote unless Democrats also agreed to extend tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

Mr. Hoyer on Tuesday also accused Senate Republicans of holding the vote “hostage.”

“We’re going to get that [middle-class tax cut] done,” he said. “Whether we get it done this week or we get it done in the weeks to come, it will be done prior to the end of this year.”

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