WASHINGTON -- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), one of the leading liberal voices in the Senate, went after his fellow Democrats on Monday for possibly caving on their promise to keep Bush tax cuts for only those earning $250,000 or less, saying "the direction they're headed is just absolutely the wrong direction for our country" and "grossly unfair" to the middle class in a speech on the Senate floor.
Harkin referenced reports that a "fiscal cliff" deal could include extending tax cuts implemented under President George W. Bush for those making less than $450,000 per year, rather than the $250,000 per year President Barack Obama promised as the cutoff.
Harkin said the $250,000 level already seems like a compromise. He called that cutoff a "tough pill to swallow," as that income level is already far above the income of middle-class Americans.
"As I see this thing developing -- quite frankly, as I've said before -- no deal is better than a bad deal, and this looks like a very bad deal, the way this is shaking up," he said.
"This is one point in time where decisions that are made on this so-called deal, decisions that are made could lock in for the next 10 years what kind of a country we're going to be, what kind of a society we're going to be," he added. "So we better be darn careful."
Harkin hedged later when asked whether he would filibuster such a deal, according to Fox News' Chad Pergram, saying, "Well, there might be some extended debate."
If no deal is reached by midnight on Monday, taxes will go back to those enacted under President Bill Clinton in 1993. Harkin said he isn't too worried about that outcome.
"I ask, what's so bad about that? It worked pretty darn well," Harkin said. "The economy was going well, we were paying down the deficit ... I, for one, do not fear going back to a system of taxation that basically worked very well for our country. It was only the Bush tax cuts that messed everything up."