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Chuck Schumer
Sen. Chuck Schumer
Sen. Chuck Schumer has told fellow Democrats to give up on the idea of resolving the fiscal cliff by pushing a Bowles-Simpson kind of tax reform that would leave the Bush tax cuts for high income earners in place. Now he has the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“He’s supportive of the Schumer approach, thinks it’s smart to put the goalposts where Schumer set them,” said a Senate Dem leadership aide, who confirmed that Reid questions a framework — like Simpson-Bowles — which cedes tax rate cuts for top earners at the outset.
Reid’s typically skeptical that ad hoc groups negotiating broad legislative bargains can reach accord or create good policy. And though he’s encouraged the group and would consider its suggestions if it produced an agreement, he’s also sitting on a Senate-passed bill in his hip pocket that would allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for top earners—legislation that requires no concessions from Democrats.
In a setback for Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of the Gang of Eight, the latest in bipartisan gangs who worship Bowles-Simpson and just want to deal away Social Security and Medicare already and get it over with, the White House is appearing also to side with Schumer and Reid. Via David Dayen, here's White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, answering a question about whether Schumer’s comments "reflect a hardening of the Democrats’ stance on this?"
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President has made clear that he supports tax reform broadly, but what Senator Schumer is making is a very important point — that the wealthiest must pay their fair share in any balanced approach to reducing our deficit in a way that protects the middle class, seniors, and our ability to invest in education and innovation.

He’s making the very clear point that the President has made and others have made, that it is fanciful thinking to imagine that you can give more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires and that the pixie dust of trickle-down economics will somehow erase any damage to the deficit or hold harmless the middle class. It is a mirage. It’s not realistic.

If Reid does use the Senate-passed bill he's holding onto and really forces the issue, with the backing of President Obama, the potential deal-making with Social Security and Medicare would, one hopes, become moot, although Schumer has insisted that they need to be kept on the table to lure Republicans to negotiate.

Make Republicans vote on whether or not to raise taxes on the middle class, period. If they reject it, let the tax cuts expire, let the national freak-out happen, and let them vote on it again. Chances are pretty damned good Republicans will change their minds when it comes down to the masses having their taxes raised because Republicans insisted on protecting millionaires.

The same holds for the automatic spending cuts that are scheduled under sequester. Let them begin, then, to get to work on a real budget to replace them. The world's not going to end on Jan. 1 if the tax cuts expire, and spending cuts start to kick in. That's all stuff that can be dealt with in a new Congress.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Oct 11, 2012 at 12:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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