Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on Tuesday outlined a tax reform approach that expands the case Senate Democrats have been building for months.
The New York Democrat offered up some new specifics, like using money saved from closing tax loopholes to reduce the deficit rather than for extending tax cuts for the wealthy. But he shied away from throwing much more light on how Senate Democrats would handle entitlement reform.
Here's what we know so far about the Senate Democratic negotiating position:
1. They won't extend tax cuts for the wealthy.
Schumer said it today. And Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said it in July: "If we can't get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013." The line helped put Senate Democrats and the Obama White House on the same rhetorical page going into the fall.
And Schumer struck again today, taking a veiled swipe at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romeny for trying to cut the deficit and extend tax cuts for the rich. "The math dictates you can't have it all," he said. "Any path forward on tax reform that promises to cut rates will either end up failing to reduce the deficit or failing to protect the middle class from a net tax increase."
2. They're "serious" on entitlement reform. They just won't say how serious.
Democrats have been vague on what kinds of entitlement reforms they're willing to stomach. Schumer hinted on Tuesday that billions could be saved by reducing Medicare costs, but didn't elaborate on what he'd cut to do it. Murray, Dick Durbin, Kent Conrad and Harry Reid have been similarly opaque when asked what their commitment to reform might look like.
3. A deal can be done.
Schumer and his colleagues argue that Congress will be able to take huge strides toward a deal during the lame-duck session. "I absolutely believe that a deal can be had before January 1st," Schumer said. Last month, Reid said he was "confident" that a deal would be struck in the lame-duck session.
But that optimism doesn't seem to extend across the aisle. "You know, and frankly, I'm not sure it's the right thing to do -- have a lot of retiring members and defeated members voting on really big bills," House Speaker John Boehner said last week. "Eh, probably not the appropriate way to handle the lame duck."