Some Minnesota lawmakers warm to tax deal, but others remain highly skeptical

Rep. Tim Walz
Rep. Tim Walz

WASHINGTON — An all-out White House press and pressure blitz seems to have moved the needle on a tax-cut extension compromise in Congress as Tuesday’s very frosty reception thawed a bit early Wednesday — and then got frosty again.

Vice President Joe Biden took the lead with members of Congress, telling Democrats Tuesday during a closed-door session in what lawmakers later described as “really blunt terms” that the White House negotiated the best deal that they could with Republican leaders.

“[Biden] was really well received,” said Rep. Tim Walz, who said he’s “probably leaning in support” of the deal but will need to see the final bill before fully committing. “It’s too important in this fragile economy….We’re here to govern and to make compromises, I see those as positive things.”

Rep. Betty McCollum
Rep. Betty McCollum

“I think that he did a really good job,” said Rep. Betty McCollum, who agreed with Biden that the White House had gotten its best deal possible – though she said that she continues to oppose the Bush-era tax cuts and will continue to oppose the measure.

No legislation has yet been drafted, and this will be a tough push to make sure it glides through the House and Senate by next week Friday, when Congress is scheduled to leave town for the year.

As for the press side, this was perhaps the biggest one-day media push the White House has embarked on, all in the name of trying to quash the emerging narrative that Democrats were solidly against the plan.

There they came in rapid fire, dozens of endorsements blasted one-by-one from the White House press room to the rapidly-filling inbox of every reporter in Washington from the coalition of the tax cut willing. The mayors of Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Charlotte (and a token Republican from Oklahoma City). The governors of Pennsylvania and Florida. Two random second-term congressmen from Michigan.

From Mayor Quimby to Jed Bartlett

Basically, anyone with a D next to their name who said something nice about President Obama’s tax cut compromise with GOP leaders got their own White House press release. After the first dozen or so, the White House press corps got in on the action.

“BREAKING FROM WHITE HOUSE: Duluth area glass-blower Hubert T. Grimset backs Obama/GOP tax cut compromise,” wrote Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler. It was a joke — there is no Hubert T. Grimset in Duluth. (I checked.)

The Hill’s Sam Youngman broke the news that Mayor McCheese of McDonald’s Happy Meal fame was a supporter, and eventually White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs himself got in on it by joking that he had endorsements ready to roll from Mayor Quimby of “The Simpsons” and “The West Wing” TV show president Jed Bartlett.

Yet despite the real (and fictional) endorsements, many Democrats remain highly skeptical of the plan.

Late this morning, House Democrats voted to not bring up the compromise tax extension up for a vote.

In addition, Rep. Jim Oberstar appears to have joined Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum in opposing the deal. Oberstar co-signed a letter by Vermont’s Peter Welch, Ellison and 51 other Democrats that called the deal irresponsible and unfair.

Sen. Al Franken, who earlier in the day told MPR that Obama “punted on third down or second down,” said this was a “very tough decision to make.”

Sen. Al Franken
REUTERS/Jason Reed
Sen. Al Franken

On the one hand, he worried that a tax cut extension for “millionaires and billionaires” would “blow a hole in the budget,” on the other he noted that extending unemployment benefits would benefit Minnesotans in need.

“I’m not terribly happy about this package but a compromise is a compromise and politics is the art of possibility,” Franken said.

Rep. Collin Peterson missed the Biden briefing, but said he’ll likely vote “yes” on the deal.

“There’s a lot in there to complain about, but I don’t think we have much choice,” he said. “I don’t think we should be raising taxes in the middle of this economic downturn.”

What’s in there to complain about?

“Well, the whole tax code is a mess,” Peterson said. “They should have overhauled the whole damn thing. Hopefully out this we’ll finally get to where we need to be and that is to get rid of the whole thing and simplify it.”

Maybe next year.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Richard Pecar on 12/09/2010 - 12:15 pm.

    This lame duck session has been horribly mismanaged. The democrats could have had their way on important issues, but instead cowered and chose to allow 2011 and the republicans to bring what it might. What the democrats are proposing rearding continution of Bush’s tax cuts is like the legislation to reform health care and banking…all are approaches requiring lots of convincing and explaining as to how they will work. In other words one all are convoluted deals one following another which follows another…

    I am too old and too tired, and have been around the block too many times to again get talked into holding my breath to give more time to weird legislation to work itself out. My view is this nation is simply rushing itself headlong on a path leading to destruction of its currency and economy. These are linked, inextricably, because our “money” is a faith-based system in case this has been forgotten — money is just paper printed with images of dead presidents. The only reason our whole economic system works is because citizens believe it works; and when people stop believing, it’s bye-bye Miss American Pie. So goeth the faith, so goeth the dollar, so goeth the nation…Of course, then we can use corporate revolving credit…but this is another story.

    Since 2006 when the Democrats regained the majority in congress they acted like gaggle of academics — you know the type, people practiced and artful at playing it safe. On the other side of the aisle the Republicans are playing table-stakes and winner-takes-all. The democrats seemingly want to put the dice into their little cup, shake and toss the dice, read their points and then nicely take a few steps. Gag!

    Isn’t there any political brawlers left among the democrats? I think not. Hubert Humphrey wouldn’t have ever let this type of tax giveaway occur; he would have fallen on his sword fighting for the working person and all the while making it clear he intended to bring the rich and powerful to their chubby knees.

    This nation can hand out all the money it wants to the rich and powerful, but this won’t create economic traction. We need Americans buying American products for that to happen. Congress should be instituting tariffs, trade barriers or whatever accomplishes the same things. Then we will be able to stop the economic death spiral, pull up our nose and avoid crashing and burning.

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe the White House and many Democrats in each House of congress have a sincere desire to do-the-right-thing, but what’s missing is the savvy and political will — ye ole’ fire-in-the-belly and spine. We need some political brawlers to fight for the unemployed, the underemployed (working poor)…these are the same people politicians so often refer to as the “middle class”.

    I say let the Bush tax cuts expire…and in case everyone forgot, the Bush tax cuts were passed only because there was a surplus at the time…So which way does it work? Surplus equals tax cuts for everyone? Deficits equals tax cuts for everyone? More rationalizations and double speak in my book.

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/09/2010 - 12:15 pm.

    This compromise plan is NOT the only deficit reduction plan available for Congress to consider. There are three, any one of which would be infinitely fairer and cheaper:

    –Representative Jan Schakowski’s plan (D-IL) is available at her web site, schakowski.house.gov.

    –The Institute for America’s Future, whose plan is called the Citizens’ Plan on Jobs, Deficits and America’s Economic Future

    –Our Fiscal Security, a plan developed by the Economic Policy Institute, Demos and the Century Foundation.

    Is every Republican in lockstep on this or might some –deficit hawks that they say they are– be pleased to save kabillions rather than adding them to the deficit to be paid off later by their children and grandchildren?

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/09/2010 - 12:54 pm.

    If the democrats in congress don’t hurry up and decide what they stand for, they’re going to have no bill for Obama to sign and when all of working America opens their first paycheck in January, the headlines will be “DEMOCRATS RAISE TAXES ON ALL AMERICANS”

    That’ll look good.

  4. Submitted by Max Hailperin on 12/09/2010 - 03:10 pm.

    A couple odd notes stand out, one in the article, another in a prior comment.

    First, we have Rep. Peterson saying that “They should have overhauled the whole damn [tax code].” I will not dispute that the “the whole tax code is a mess.” But who exactly is this magical “they” would could manage to overhaul the whole thing in a last-minute compromise in a lame-duck session? And what sorts of unexpected consequences would be likely to follow if a major tax overhaul were passed in the space of a week?

    Second, in comment #2, Bernice Vetsch writes “This compromise plan is NOT the only deficit reduction plan available for Congress to consider.” But the compromise plan is not a deficit reduction plan.

  5. Submitted by antony cliffton on 12/09/2010 - 03:57 pm.

    Can’t understand how the Repubs are suddenly for adding 450B to the deficit next year by extending the GWB tax cuts. They were an ill conceived political gift to the base and should have never been passed in the first place. The projections they were based on back then and the whole “trickle down” theory are complete nonsense proven by constant repetition with the help of the media. A tax cut is a tax increase for future generations and deficit spending plain and simple. Obama should be screaming this from the rooftops and not budging especially with a lame duck congress in his favor, they have nothing to lose.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/09/2010 - 08:45 pm.

    It’s strange that the same people who blew $800 billion on a failed “stimulus” plan that did nothing but bail out other levels of government, are now claiming that a plan that keeps all tax rates the same, thereby resulting in no more or no less revenue, will somehow result in costing an equal amount of money as the “stimulus,” something they only criticized because it was too small.

  7. Submitted by antony cliffton on 12/15/2010 - 04:00 pm.

    Once again the repubs are playing the long game just as they did in 2001. This mess will expire in an election year and the dems will have no choice but to let it go on indefinitely, which they’ll have to do anyway after losing the House. The 2010 no income limit for 401k and IRA conversions to their Roth equivalent with a 2 year period to pay the tax was another genius forward looking plan to lock in all the profits from storming Wall Street and the windfall 10 year tax holiday the uber-rich enjoyed. Again long term (selfish) thinking vs. the dems not thinking, setting the bar low, and then giving in. Dems should all wear “kick me” signs on their backs for even easier identification.

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