White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod predicted on Thursday that the Democratic Congress would ultimately pass the president's tax cut package even if, as all indications suggest, the party punts on the issue until after the November elections.
As Senate Democrats held a caucus meeting to discuss whether to hold a vote on extending tax cuts just for those making under $250,000 a year, the White House was going into overdrive to try to assure observers that the party isn't wasting the clear advantage it held on the issue in public opinion polls.
Ceding, implicitly, that a vote could be pushed until after the election to accommodate wary Democrats, Axelrod told a group of online reporters and bloggers that the president isn't backing off his position.
"Our goal is to get these tax cuts passed and to give people the certainty they need. And if we can't get it done before the election, we will insist on it after. And we are going to make it very clear everyday that those aren't passed, who is blocking this and why," said Axelrod.
Asked later if he is disappointed that the Senate appears to be avoiding a vote on tax cuts, Axelrod argued that voters don't need to see formal yeas or nays in order to know where the parties stand on the issue.
I don't think anybody in American at this point doubts where the president is, where we are, and where the Republican Party is. We will repeat it every day. The Republican Party is holding hostage tax cuts for the middle class. If the Republican Party would allow us to move forward in the senate, without using procedural techniques, we could do that. As you know the Republican Party has tied up the senate for the better part of two years even on routine things and they are using those same parliamentary techniques to stop us from moving forward here. So I don't think there is going to be any ambiguity about where we stand or they stand and I am very, very confident that we will ultimately win this fight because I don't think the American people are going to sit still and allow the republicans to inflict a tax increase on them... to facilitate additional tax relief for millionaires and billionaires.
There are, it seems, two important caveats to the White House pushback. While Axelrod is correct in noting that Republican obstructionism is making the tax cut vote difficult if not impossible for Democratic leadership to execute, the fact remains that it was conservative members within his own party (and those in tough election battles) who pushed for the vote to be delayed.
As for the macro-politics, Axelrod may be correct in arguing that voters already know where the parties stand on this debate. But forcing an actual vote would have crystallized the contrast even further. And the fact that Democrats couldn't act on that opportunity has now become the story itself. The conference call the White House hosted for bloggers and online reporters, after all, was supposed to be about the Republican Party's 21-page blueprint for governance. It ended up being dominated by questions about Senate Democrats caving on the tax cuts issue.