(Updated) U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Democrat-turned-Independent, stiffed his Democratic colleagues this morning when he told the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce that he supports an extension of the Bush tax cuts to even the wealthiest Americans. His Democratic colleagues in the House, at least four of whom were in Hartford Monday, disagreed with the soon-to-be senior Senator from Connecticut.
“I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through,” Lieberman said Monday morning. “The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be. And that means I will do everything I can to make sure Congress extends the so-called Bush tax cuts for another year and takes action to prevent the estate tax from rising back to where it was.”
U.S. Rep. John Larson, the fourth highest ranking Democrat in the House, said Lieberman was auditioning for the Republican party when he made those remarks. Lieberman still caucuses with the Democratic party and is still registered as a Democrat even though he was reelected in 2006 as an Independent.
“I would say to Senator Lieberman that $700 billion dollars that could be used toward reducing the deficit in these very difficult times to people to return to a position that they held during the Clinton administration under taxes where they did extraordinarily well is something we just can‘t afford to do at this particular time. We have to pay down this debt,” Larson said.
The tax cuts being given to wealthier Americans will be used to reduce the deficit under the Democratic proposal.
President Obama and most of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation believe the lower tax rates should be permanent for individuals earning up to $200,000 a year, and couples earning up to $250,000. Republicans want to extend them for the wealthy as well.
However, as U.S. Rep. Chuck Schumer predicted on Friday, Republicans, such as House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio, would find it difficult to vote for a bill that lowered taxes for most taxpayers. Boehner seemed to concede in a “Face the Nation” interview Sunday that if he wasn’t given a choice he would have to vote, at the very least, in favor of tax cuts for the middle class.
“Our first priority is to get those tax breaks to middle-class families,” Schumer said Friday. “I think the idea of making sure that the overwhelming majority of American families get a tax cut will be hard for the Republicans to resist. Particularly when we are also saving some of that money for deficit reduction.”
“We’re pleased that John Boehner is starting to see the Democratic light, although they haven’t this year on any given issue,” Larson said. “I think it’s definitely politically posturing, but hey this is the season.”
U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy said his constituents care about middle class tax relief and deficit reduction.
“I continue to be very supportive of a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans,” said Murphy. But “at some point we need to make choices that allow us to start paying down this debt.”
U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney said he supports the tax cuts for the middle class and if there’s a way to get it done with a small business “Subchapter S” exemption then he’s all for it. He said the exemption impacts about 2 to 3 percent of small businesses that report both their business and personal income together. He said he’d be in favor of increasing the $250,000 threshold in that situation for those specific small businesses.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said she supports the extension of the tax cuts for couples earning up to $250,000, while U.S. Rep. Jim Himes the only member of the delegation not at a Hartford press conference Monday, said he supports the tax cuts for all income brackets.
“Congressman Himes has to do what he thinks is best,” DeLauro said.
Larson said he expects the Senate to lead the way in bringing out the tax cut legislation.
But he didn’t express much optimism in that legislative body since there are 372 bills the House has passed and the Senate has yet to take up.
“We’d like to see them do anything,” Larson said.