"Now is the time for serious negotiations, not political stunts," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee and a negotiator in the "Gang of Four" congressional members meeting with the White House.
"This is disappointing and a sign of bad faith after the president agreed to bipartisan, bi-cameral talks. There will be bipartisan opposition to the Democrats' push to raise taxes on small business," Camp said.
Earlier in the day, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced that the House will debate and vote Thursday on a bill to renew tax cuts for those earning under $250,000 and for families receiving the earned income tax credit. Hoyer said the legislation will incorporate statutory pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO, rules that require any spending to be zeroed in savings elsewhere.
"I'm hopeful we'll be able to pass that bill, maybe unanimously," Hoyer said.
Hoyer made the announcement as members of a bipartisan group of lawmakers and two White House officials met to work out a tax cut deal. He insisted that Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the House Democrats' negotiator in the group, said it will "not undermine negotiations on a compromise."
"Nor is it intended to embarrass or put Republicans in a difficult place," Hoyer said.
Asked if the move by Democrats could blow up the spirit of good will on Capitol Hill, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "No." He added that if Americans take lawmakers at their word, middle class tax cuts will pass.
"If you read statements from everybody involved, that's what we agree on. So let's agree on that," Gibbs said, adding that negotiations "will take a little time" and Congress must continue working throughout that period.
But Republicans say it puts them in a tenuous position because it undermines work already being done to find a compromise while also forcing the GOP to vote against cuts for the middle class in order to give everyone, including higher income taxpayers, tax relief.
"This announcement that House Democrats will vote to raise taxes on American families and small businesses clearly violates the spirit of the White House meeting yesterday and undermines efforts to reach a real solution to protect the American people from the January 1 tax hikes," said a top Republican House aide.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded that she finds it incredulous that Republicans are calling for tax cuts for the wealthy, which will cost $700 billion over 10 years, while insisting that $18 billion in unemployment benefits must be paid for through PAYGO.
"Tax cuts for the rich do not create jobs," she said, adding that unemployment insurance grows the economy and creates jobs.
Hoyer indicated the legislation will not require a two-thirds vote for approval but rather a simple majority. If the bill required two-thirds to pass, it would in effect dare Republicans to vote for the legislation.
Hoyer would not commit to giving Republicans an opportunity to alter or kill the legislation. Conceivably, Republicans could craft a motion that would extend all Bush-era tax rates and if it passed then those cuts could be made part of the bill.
A failure to include that option will be sure to inflame GOP tempers further, which is almost always afforded a motion to change the legislation.
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