Three progressive members of Congress are urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) to bring President Obama's tax plan to a vote on the floor before adjourning in October, which would force lawmakers to put a marker down on whether they're willing to hold up tax cuts for the middle class in order to also preserve the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. The members plan to soon start circulating the letter amongst their colleagues to gain more signatories.
The Huffington Post received an exclusive copy of the letter, which is signed by Democratic Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.) and Alan Grayson (Fla.). "It is critical that we pass the Obama middle-class tax cuts -- not providing an even greater lift for the wealthiest Americans who don't need it," they write. The letter:
Dear Madam Speaker:
Last decade, President Bush rammed through Congress a multi-billion dollar give-away for the wealthiest Americans on the backs of our nation's middle-class. In the process, the aforementioned Bush tax cuts eviscerated an unprecedented budget surplus and weakened our nation's fiscal health. As the Bush tax cuts are set to expire, we respectfully urge you to bring to the floor, before Congress adjourns in October, a vote on President Obama's recently proposed tax plan: permanent tax cuts for the middle-class while allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans to expire, using any additional revenue to close our budget deficit.
We must show the American people that our Democratic Majority stands for them -- people who have worked hard, played by the rules and depend on these tax breaks to make ends meet. We also need to get serious about cutting our budget deficit by allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire.
Some have argued that the Bush tax cuts help to stimulate the economy, or that allowing these cuts to expire would hurt our nation's small businesses. This is flat out wrong. According to a recent report by the Center for American Progress, the economy boasted 132 million jobs in June 2001, the month that the first of the Bush tax cuts was signed into law. By June 2004, there were just 131.4 million jobs -- a decrease of 600,000 jobs. Furthermore, a recent report from the Tax Policy Center states that, "Roughly 97 percent of small businesses would not be affected at all by increases in the top two tax rates."
Rather, extending the Bush tax cuts will result in an $830 billion give-away for the nation's wealthiest Americans, significantly increasing government debt, the interest on which will be paid by our nation's middle-class for years to come. This astronomical sum could instead be used to close our budget deficit.
It is critical that we pass the Obama middle-class tax cuts -- not providing an even greater lift for the wealthiest Americans who don't need it.
Mary Jo Kilroy
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Kilroy initiated the letter and then reached out to the grassroots group, Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), and its lobbying arm, the P Street Project, which brought in Grijalva and Grayson. PCCC co-founder Adam Green said that Kilroy, Grijalva and Grayson deserve a lot of credit for this push, and the group will be mobilizing its members to during the election.
"President Obama won the tax cut fight in 2008 by focusing on middle-class families, and it's a no-brainer that Democrats should embrace it in 2010," Green told the Huffington Post. "They should demand that millionaires pay their fair share and dare Republicans to vote against tax cuts for 97% of Americans. Following Kilroy's political instincts before the election could easily save many Democratic House seats by energizing the base and showing Independent voters the true agenda of Republicans: class warfare on middle-class families."
As The Huffington Post reported this week, these members -- especially Kilroy and Grayson, who are in competitive swing districts -- are part of a group that has bucked the tide and is trying to win by standing up for core progressive values. This letter underscores how having progressive members inside Congress can help facilitate activist organizing on the outside. Ilyse Hogue of MoveOn.org explained that if this group goes down, "we'll lose more than just some races; we'll lose the core principle that democracy works best when elected representatives respond to the needs of their constituents and that organizing power can actually restore some balance to our corporate-tilted government."
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated a willingness to support an extension of the Bush tax cuts just for those making under $250,000 a year if that was the only vote he'd get. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), on the other hand, wants nothing less than to codify all the Bush-era tax cuts and a reduction of the estate tax. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that one procedural tool for Boehner is to "call for a vote on whether to send the Obama plan back to the Ways and Means Committee, with instructions to add the cuts for those who pay the highest rate."