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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during a joint news conference with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)(L) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) (R) on the Republican Filibuster of Reid's debt plan on Capitol Hill in Washington July 29, 2011
Senate Democratic leadership: Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin
Consensus is building in the Senate Democratic caucus that the best approach to the Bush tax cuts is to let them expire as scheduled at the end of the year and come back in January with a proposal to extend the tax cuts for the middle class. If responsible Republicans are paying any attention, they'll realize this gets them off a big Grover Norquist hook.
Virtually every Republican in Congress has taken the pledge, pushed by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, never to vote for a tax increase—a pledge both parties see as a serious impediment to a tax compromise. But if tax rates snap back to the levels of the Clinton presidency on Jan. 1, any legislation to reinstate some of those tax cuts—but not all of them—would be considered a tax cut.

“Many Republicans are starting to realize something important: On Jan. 1, if we haven’t gotten to a deal, Grover Norquist and his pledge are no longer relevant to this conversation,” Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, said this week in a speech at the Brookings Institution. “We will have a new fiscal and political reality.”

That's, of course, if there are still responsible Republicans. And whether they have more fealty to Grover Norquist, to the very wealthy, or to the country. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's response gives us a clue: "Democrats in Congress are now saying that they would rather see taxes go up on every American at the end of the year than let about a million businesses keep what they earn now. [...] This isn’t an economic agenda. It’s an ideological crusade."

If it's an "ideological crusade," it's one that the majority of the public supports, according to the polling. Americans think that raising taxes on income over $250,000 will help both make the economy stronger, and make the tax system more fair.

Besides being popular with the public, holding the line on this would also take a hostage away from Republicans, and potentially the impetus to try to strike some grand bargain with them before the end of year. It's the current best chance for protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which just keep getting thrust on to the chopping block as sacrifices to get the Republicans on board with tax hikes.

Democrats have leverage on this one, and that leverage includes public opinion. But as Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) says, "If Democrats want to use that leverage, we can't blink." It should be relatively easy not to blink on this one—it's as simple as not doing anything, which Congress is really adept at.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 08:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Blumenthal is showing signs of caving--a symptom: (10+ / 0-)

    He said that if the choice was full extension or no extension, he'd vote for full extension.

    I think that many Senators would do the same.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 09:00:48 AM PDT

    •  yeah.. "tough talk" is two steps away from (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      caving.  leverage, my ass...

      There is no way in hell the 21 Dems in the Senate up for re-election will walk into the November elections supporting massive tax increases for all on Jan 1st.

      Next step: Calls for compromise while displaying outrage (I'm shocked, shocked I say!) that the GOP would hold the economy hostage!

      Obama will reluctantly sign to save the economy.

      •  There is no such thing (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ferg, squarewheel, Jerry J, cybersaur

        as "responsible Republicans".

        If there were, there's no way they allow the teahadists bunch to drive their party off the cliff.

        If responsible Republicans are paying any attention, they'll realize this gets them off a big Grover Norquist hook.
        That's just it; there are no responsible ReThugs sitting in either chamber of Congress, and they all pledged allegiance to a non-elected moron who wants to drown the U. S. Government in a bathtub.

        "Washington, DC: Where Corrupt Officials are discovered daily."

        by The Truth on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:41:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Incorrect frame (0+ / 0-)
        There is no way in hell the 21 Dems in the Senate up for re-election will walk into the November elections supporting massive tax increases for all on Jan 1st.
        No active support is required! The taxes will go up regardless. Many of those 21 Dems that you're so concerned about are already on record as having voted for the extension of those cuts.
        The GOP will be hard pressed to hold any single senator accountable when there is no vote required to allow the expiration.

        --- Keep Christian mythology out of science class!

        by cybersaur on Thu Jul 19, 2012 at 09:10:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  well it's time we spam Blumenthal with this video. (0+ / 0-)

      tell him if he votes for it he's an amateur. If the dnc dscc or dccc send you mailers, send that link back to them and tell them you won't send money to people who defend democrats who betray progressive principals! up yours!

      by daeros on Thu Jul 19, 2012 at 12:04:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The irony about the fiscal cliff (7+ / 0-)

    Well, there are a few ironies. One being that lawmakers who created the sequester and couldnt come up with a deficit reduction deal in the super committee are now outraged that we might have to go through with something they voted for.

    But also, it seems like it would significantly reduce US debt and the deficit. Apparently, there is one analysis that says going off the fiscal cliff would result in a nearly balanced budget by 2016. I believe that's a better deficit reduction than any plan currently out there.

    I'm not saying I'm in favor of going over the fiscal cliff(I dont have enough info on the possible effects), but given how obsessed Republicans and the political media are about "making the tough decisions" to reduce the deficit, here you have a tough decision that would reduce the debt, and they are running away from it.

  •  and if, by chance, the Congress is able to move (8+ / 0-)

    there is one more chance in the White House

    it's as simple as not doing anything, which Congress is really adept at
    if necessary, The President can enforce "do nothing" with a veto.

    Not nearly as nice a picture, but workable - but still, it would be far better for the Senate Dems to hold the line and "just say no".

    why I'm a Democrat - Isaiah 58:6-12, Matthew 25:31-46

    by marking time on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 09:21:24 AM PDT

  •  What would be useful (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DefendOurConstitution, lgmcp

    would be something simple (that the general public could understand at a glance, as their attention span seems to be pretty short) that shows how much taxes would go up, on average, for each segment of the population.

    I am betting that, for the vast majority of us, it isn't all that bloody much.  Some small businesses might get hit, but the overall boost to the national economy with the ultra rich paying more of their fair share would be enough to offset some of that.

    Does anyone have such a chart?

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 10:12:29 AM PDT

    •  People's position on this (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, divineorder

      isn't driven by self interest, it's driven by fairness.  Also, the public already agrees with us - the issue is how to leverage that support to get members of Congress on board.

      Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

      by David Kaib on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:12:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Genius (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999, hotdamn, lgmcp, Matt Z, cybersaur

    I like it.

    But, the problem is that "responsible republican" is an oxymoron, so........

    The truth is sometimes very inconvenient.

    by commonsensically on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:08:37 PM PDT

  •  Larry Kudlow had an Epiphany (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    itzik shpitzik

    Gee even if Romney wins without a republican senate he can't do much.

    Not blaming Bush for the mess we're in, is like not blaming a train engineer for a fatal train wreck because he's no longer driving the train.

    by JML9999 on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:09:13 PM PDT

  •  What is Grover gonna do? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    basket, cocinero

    Does he break windows? Key cars? TP lawns?

    I believe a Republican could pull 10-20% favorability by publicly declaring he is breaking his pledge to Grover because it makes for deadbeat legislators who cannot responsibly pay the bills.

    And yes, Grover made me sick when he said on Meet the Press last Sunday that the pledge was not to him, but to the American taxpayer. Listen here,  jackass Grover: I pay tax and I did NOT demand the pledge, you did! Take credit for your own jackass stunts and stop pretending you speak for me!

    It is incumbent upon the commander in chief to defeat the enemies of democracy… in this case, a two-faced narcissist and his tax-exempt horse.

    by Says Who on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:10:21 PM PDT

  •  Republicans aren't beholden to Nordquist (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I know cuz Tom Coburn told me so....

    A spokeswoman for Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said Mr. Norquist — who is famous for getting lawmakers to pledge not to support tax hikes or deficit reduction that is paired with revenue increases — was coming to give the G.O.P. its “marching orders.”

    But this story is utterly false. Senate Republicans — and many House Republicans — have repeatedly rejected Mr. Norquist’s strict interpretation of his own pledge, a reading that requires them to defend every loophole and spending program hidden in the tax code. While most Republicans do, of course, oppose tax increases, they are hardly the mindless robots Democrats say they are.

    keep dreaming Tom.....

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy;the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness

    by CTMET on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:10:23 PM PDT

  •  Stop teasing us! I cannot take any more teasing (2+ / 0-)

    about Democrats actually having a spine only to have them cave again!

    Now I know what Charlie Brown felt like every time Lucy pulled the football and he fell on his ass!

    Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

    by DefendOurConstitution on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:10:35 PM PDT

  •  Subscribe to Social Security threat news digest (0+ / 0-)

    if you have not already at

    Strengthen Social Security
    Here's a sample:
    Bowles and Simpson: Still pushing boulder up the Hill


    Jeanne Sahadi

    Now, however, a legislative version is circulating among some members of Congress, who are offering feedback, Bowles said. The original 66-page report has morphed into a more than 600-page-bill.

    Among the campaign's core principles is that any final debt-reduction plan must affect all parts of the budget, preserve economic growth and protect the needy, said Fix the Debt co-chair Ed Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, at a press conference.

    How did Supreme Court decision ACA help the 23 million still uncovered? Ask the 18,000 Doctors of PNHP -- they're not waiting, FORWARD now to pass H.R. 676, the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act .

    by divineorder on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:14:25 PM PDT

  •  Grow a spine: let them all expire (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Debflyer, cybersaur

    Introduce the correct tax cuts in the new year and dare the Republicans to vote against them.

    The payroll tax cut is separate; that one will be easier to extend. It doesn't have other crap (like tax free dividends) attached to it.

    Sometimes . . . I feel . . . like a redneck with chopsticks . . . Dreaming of squirrel while I'm sucking down squid . . .

    by Pale Jenova on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:14:53 PM PDT

  •  Growing that spine is way overdue (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Thomas Twinnings, cybersaur

    It's time the Democrats learn that demonstrating a little, just a little, resolution on this matter will go some distance to rebuilding their credibility as the party that acts in the national interest.  The last several years have provided several opportunities for that, but even where they have done the right thing, such as health care and financial regulation they've been afraid to talk about it.  It's just time.

  •  Million Small Businesses - Ernst & Young study (0+ / 0-)

    Not blaming Bush for the mess we're in, is like not blaming a train engineer for a fatal train wreck because he's no longer driving the train.

    by JML9999 on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:20:15 PM PDT

  •  We only have 1 Congressperson for all of VT. (0+ / 0-)

    But we do OK, no?

    "So, am I right or what?"

    by itzik shpitzik on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:23:13 PM PDT

  •  Smart move that will help in November... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...with the Republican track record of obstructionism and hostage-taking, it is in the interest of every middle-class voter to see that the Democrats control things after the election.  This is a brilliant in five-dimensional chess!

  •  The Wall Street Journal is terrified (0+ / 0-)

    they will let them expire--that we will walk off the "fiscal cliff" (and of course it will all be Obama's fault).

    Of course, they also claim the tax cuts for the rich do not cost anything at all, that taxes on dividends are only paid by non-rich people, and that Bain is an awesome, wonderful, fantastic creator of MILLIONS of jobs.

    Way too many hits from the crack pipe . . .

    Sometimes . . . I feel . . . like a redneck with chopsticks . . . Dreaming of squirrel while I'm sucking down squid . . .

    by Pale Jenova on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:31:17 PM PDT

  •  Do nothing. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mchestnutjr, matx

    I'd actually love to see the senate dems to do that. No compromise, no horse trading, sunset final comes to the tax cuts that we couldn't afford to begin with. We can negotiate with the R's after we rouchambeuax them repeatedly on this issue. The public wants it, give it to them. This is bringing an uzi to a shouting match. The other side after all is said and done will STFU and STFD.
    They have nothing to counter this and they know it. MAKE THEM SUBMIT to the will of the electorate for a change. Break them on the rack of public opinion and leave them there to rot.

  •  Last time this came around on the guitar (0+ / 0-)

    I was literally screaming to just do nothing.  That's all they had to do, and they couldn't even do that.  Led by caver in chief who said something like "You don't negotiate with hostage takers, unless they threaten to kill the hostage." Really?  Don't they always threaten to kill the hostage?  And once they kill the hostage, what leverage do they have?  

    So NOW this dawns on them?  Are we to believe they didn't know this then?  

    Two years later, after I've removed myself from all donor databases, they're now saying, hey Charlie, kick it.  I won't move the ball this time.  

    ‎"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them." --Frederick Douglass

    by Nada Lemming on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:38:41 PM PDT

  •  That's fine, (0+ / 0-)

    but what about the 2.5 trillion dollars worth of lost revenue because of those stupid tax cuts. How do we get that back?

    Only the weak & defeated are called to account for their crimes.

    by rreabold on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:40:12 PM PDT

  •  This is leverage that can only be maintained (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with strong, consistent public messaging.

    I'm not sure the GOP can't win the messaging war on this one before the election; label me "wait and see."

    The most violent element in society is ignorance.

    by Mr MadAsHell on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:45:08 PM PDT

  •  All they have to do is nothing. (0+ / 0-)

    And I bet they'll find a way to screw that up.

    How many divisions does OWS have?

    by Diebold Hacker on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:56:51 PM PDT

  •  Not buying it (0+ / 0-)

    ...if Republicans don't vote to lower taxes, that's the same thing as raising taxes in Goober Norquist's eyes.

    And Fox will tell the teabaggers to agree with them.

    America, we can do better than this...

    by Randomfactor on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:57:31 PM PDT

  •  Well... it's a nice idea, but... (0+ / 0-)

    ...the Democratic Congress's creativity in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory the past four years is positively breathtaking.

    What th' heck do I know, I work for a living...

    by SamuraiArtGuy on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 06:58:19 PM PDT

  •  Just let them expire. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Yes- it would suck to pay more.  But it would be awesome in 2014 when our deficit magically is lower because we're collecting a responsible amount of taxes.  The Republicans would be very much in a lot of trouble when it came to explaining how our deficit went down when we didn't following their "rising water lifts all boats" malarkey.

    Democracy is often an indictment of the voting populace.

    by electricgrendel on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 07:09:19 PM PDT

  •  Nothing like a good election issue.... (0+ / 0-)

    Let them expire and don't adjust the AMT for the upteenth time

  •  I'll See It When I Believe It (0+ / 0-)

    They talk a tough game, but the problem is that they have a history of selling out. What's different this time? Certainly it isn't that the personnel have changed.

  •  It was a 10-year tax vacation and now it must end (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Taxes are not being raised--they just maxed out their stay at Disneyworld and have to come back to pay the bills they ran up.

  •  Why this piece of blinding obviousness (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    did not sink in two years ago, I do not know.  The Bush tax cuts should have been allowed to expire, period.  Then Democrats could have introduced tax-cut proposals (balanced by loophole closing) that can actually help the middle and poorer classes.

    It might happen yet, but I'm not holding my breath.

    Silvio Levy

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