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White House denies folding on Bush tax cuts, but still ‘open to compromise’

A lot of hubbub this morning surrounding a Huffington Post article that suggested the White House was willing to cave on its position of permanently extending tax cuts for most Americans while only temporarily extending those for the upper two percent and instead accept the idea of a temporary extension of all the tax cuts. Following the story’s publication, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer emailed Greg Sargent to set the record straight:

The story is overwritten. Nothing has changed from what the President said last week. We believe we need to extend the middle class tax cuts, we cannot afford to borrow 700 billion to pay for extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and we are open to compromise and are looking forward to talking to the Congressional leadership next week to discuss how to move forward. Full Stop, period, end of sentence.

That still leaves unclear, however, whether the White House will keep demanding that the majority of the tax cuts be permanent while the ones for individuals making more than than $200,000 be temporary. Republicans are pretty much categorically opposed to “decoupling” the time frames of tax cuts for these two groups, because then they’d be forced to advocate for an extension of tax cuts just for the rich at some point down the line.

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, emailed to offer his two cents:

The White House saying ‘we support’ a policy is meaningless — they ‘supported’ the public option and then let it die without a fight. The White House and congressional leaders need to say we are scheduling one vote, one vote only, and that vote is on renewing the middle class tax cuts — and if Republicans want to oppose tax cuts for 98% of Americans, we dare them to and will pummel them politically if they do. That’s how you fight and put Republicans on defense.

I’m inclined to agree with Green on this point. If Republicans are nervous about having to advocate for extending just the tax cuts for the wealthy at some later date, Democrats should jump at having that same debate with them right now. Instead, they’ve constantly backed away from a fight over the issue despite the fact that most polls show public opinion is on their side.

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