Just when you thought you've finally found an issue to rally the party around, along come a handful of Democrats trying to screw it up:
WASHINGTON — Democrats in Congress are poised to play a leading role this month in thwarting their party's effort to raise income tax rates on the wealthy.
Tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 expire at the end of this year. President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have been eager to extend the breaks for individuals who earn less than $200,000 annually and joint filers who make less than $250,000. Those who earn more would pay higher, pre-2001 rates starting next year.
However, a small but growing number of moderate Democrats are balking at boosting taxes on the rich.
McClatchy's David Lightman names three Senators (Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, and Kent Conrad) as well as three Senate candidates (Jack Conway, Robin Carnahan, and Brad Ellsworth) who support extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. But as he also points out, Majority Leader Reid and President Obama have both come out strongly for allowing tax rates on the wealthy to return to 1990 levels. That's the position Obama campaigned on and won on in 2008 and it remains popular: last week, a CBS poll showed the public wants Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy to expire by a 56%-36% margin.
Although it can be frustrating when President Obama takes a hands-off attitude towards Congress, stories like this underscore the extent to which problems really do start with conservative and weenie Dems in Congress. But it is also represents what may be Obama's best opportunity to beat those Dems -- along with the Republicans they are enabling -- at their own game. The reason is simple: this time, Obama doesn't just have politics and policy on his side, he also has procedure. Advocates for Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy have virtually no leverage -- unless they want to kill tax cuts for everybody else. If that's a fight they want to have, it's a fight the administration should welcome, starting by demanding Congress extend tax cuts for regular Americans and pledging to veto any permanent extension of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.
While passing a permanent extension of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy would be an unbelievable and pathetic letdown, winning this battle would be incredibly invigorating, especially given where things stand today. And with the election just two months away, the timing is perfect.