WASHINGTON — The White House and Democratic leaders in Congress said Sunday they would find a way to extend middle-class tax cuts after the November elections, unable to secure GOP backing before lawmakers break to campaign.
"One way or the other, we're going to get it done. And I believe the pressure is going to build among the American people" said David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's top political aide.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had suggested that a vote could be held this coming week before lawmakers leave town for the elections. But her deputy, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said Sunday that holding a vote wouldn't matter because the legislation is still languishing in the Senate under GOP objections.
Both parties are using the delay in a vote on the fate of these George W. Bush-era cuts at a time of record deficits as political ammunition this election season.
Democratic leaders have said they want to freeze tax rates for individuals making up to $200,000 and for families earning up to $250,000. Republicans, as well as some more conservative Democrats, want to extend all of Bush's income tax cuts permanently, even for the wealthiest of Americans.
Democrats think the climate for compromise will improve after the election. They will still need at least one Republican vote in the Senate to pass a bill.
"We are for making sure that the middle-class Americans do not get a tax increase. And we're going to make sure that happens," Hoyer said.
Republicans say they want a chance to debate extending the tax cuts beyond the middle class or else they will block the Democratic proposal.
"If she's not willing to have a fair and open debate, she should not count on our votes," House GOP Leader John Boehner said of Pelosi.
Axelrod said that kind of strong-arm tactic will hurt Republicans in this fall's election.
"They're going to have to explain to their constituents why they're holding up tax cuts for the middle class," Axelrod said. "And I think it's an untenable position to say, "We're going to allow your taxes to go up on January 1st unless the president agrees to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires."
The Senate's second-ranking Democrat said he hoped the atmosphere will have changed after the election and the impassed ended. "Occasionally one Republican will break ranks and help us," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Still, Republicans have seized on the impasse in Congress by alleging that Democrats are contributing to consumer uncertainty.
"The Democrats have failed to lead this," said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. "They are going to want to leave the House without dealing with it. That uncertainty itself is keeping capital on the sidelines and keeping jobs from being created in America."
Boehner said that if the House leaves without blocking the tax increases, "it will be the most irresponsible thing that I've seen since I have been in Washington, D.C."
Axelrod spoke on ABC's "This Week." Hoyer, Boehner and McCarthy appeared "Fox News Sunday." Durbin was on CNN's "State of the Union."