House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday defended her proposal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning up to $1 million annually, saying she is trying to find a middle-ground approach that can jump-start debate.
The Obama administration wants to raise taxes on households making more than $250,000, while Republican leaders want to preserve the current tax rates across the board.
Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said she proposed a $1 million threshold because the $250,000 limit has been rejected by so many in Congress.
Without a resolution, taxes will increase across the board next year.
"It's a path to getting something done," she told reporters at the Capitol, though she hinted she'd be willing to compromise on the exact number once the debate begins.
Her proposal would mean far less revenue for the government than Mr. Obama's $250,000 threshold — $366 billion less over 10 years, the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported this week.
That lost revenue could leave programs ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to education and homeland security significantly more vulnerable to deep cuts, the report says.
Raising rates on those with incomes at the $250,000 threshold would generate $829 billion over the next 10 years, the report says.
Mrs. Pelosi disputed the report's findings, saying other tax revenue could be raised.
"The tax rate on income is one way to approach upper-income revenue. There are other ways," she said.
"We need to have a balanced approach, and that means revenues, and it means cuts which we've already by and large made. If there are others that we can make which do not upset our priorities, then we should go down that path."
In a letter last week to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, Mrs. Pelosi said Congress should take up a bill dealing with tax cuts everyone could agree to, in order to give certainty to the middle class.
But Mr. Boehner on Thursday showed no signs of agreeing to Mrs. Pelosi's request, calling her plan "a big mistake."
"Half of those who would get this higher tax are small-business people," the speaker told reporters at the Capitol. "At a time when we're trying to help small business create jobs, this proposal would kill jobs."
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Thursday declined to say if the administration supported Mrs. Pelosi's proposal.
"We're working with leaders in Congress. We're continuing to have discussions on that," he told reporters.
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