WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that if Democrats don't pay the Republican ransom on tax cuts, America's middle class will be forced to foot the bill at the end of the year.
"The president is in a very difficult position," said Hoyer, noting that on Dec. 30 middle-income tax rates are scheduled to go up. "If we don't pay the ransom," Hoyer told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday, "around 118 million Americans are going to pay the price."
At his weekly press availability, Hoyer declined to say whether his caucus would support the tax cut package, expressing concern over the deal the president reached with Senate Republicans.
Hoyer criticized Republicans for holding tax cuts for the middle class "hostage," adding that the bill that reflected the Democrats' true position was the one defeated in the Senate on Saturday.
He blamed arcane Senate procedures for the failure of the legislation.
"I think it reflected the majority of the views in the U.S. Senate," said Hoyer of Democrats' bill. "Unfortunately you need 60 votes."
Pelosi has also tried to draw a clear line between what Democrats want and what Republicans are pushing for, emphasizing intentions over results.
"The tax proposal announced by the President clearly presents the differences between Democrats and Republicans. Any provision must be judged by two criteria: does it create jobs to grow our economy and does it add to the deficit?" said Pelosi in a statement Tuesday.
"The Democratic provisions will create jobs and help 155 million workers through tax cuts for the middle class, helping working families who are struggling and growing the economy. The Republican demands would provide tax cuts to the millionaires and billionaires, fail to create jobs and increase the deficit."
Chris Van Hollen, who will serve as the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee next year, has indicated that Democrats have serious reservations about the tax cut package. And House Democratic Conference Chair John Larson has hinted that Democrats may try to make some changes to the plan.
The House "always likes to put its own imprimatur on everything that we do," he told reporters after Hoyer's press conference was adjourned.
If Congress fails to reauthorize the unemployment benefits, it will be the first time in more than half a century that extended benefits have been allowed to expire when the national unemployment rate is above 7.2 percent.
Even if President Obama manages to reach a deal with Republicans that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years and unemployment benefits for one year, as was discussed Saturday, such a deal will fall far short of a Democratic victory.
HuffPost's Arthur Delaney notes that in 1983, a GOP-controlled Senate and White House reauthorized benefits for 17 months.