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Budget / Taxation

Democrats Look for Tax Compromise

Lawmakers float ideas for extending Bush tax cuts.

photo of Michael Hirsh
November 28, 2010

Democratic lawmakers on Sunday sketched out various compromises on Bush-era tax cuts in hopes of reaching agreements with Republicans in the lame-duck session of Congress.

One proposal, floated by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., on Fox News Sunday, would extend all tax cuts for those making $1 million a year or less. “That’s what I think is the right approach, McCaskill said. “I think we should draw the line in the sand for millionaires.” Such a policy would represent a shift from Obama’s proposal to extend the tax breaks only for those making $200,000 or less (or $250,000 for married couples), though in recent weeks the administration has signaled that it is willing to cut a deal.

On CNN’s State of the Union, outgoing Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said, "What's likely to happen is everyone gets an extension of tax cuts for a limited time." Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., suggested on Meet the Press that some of the proposals could be hashed out at planned summit meeting at the White House on Tuesday with Republican and Democratic leaders. “I think we need to sit down,” said Durbin. “Maybe this meeting with the president will kick it off.”

 

On the same program, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., indicated that Republicans would not budge in their insistence that all the tax cuts be extended, but he suggested there might be room for compromise, perhaps if Democrats agree to continue all the tax breaks in exchange for another extension of unemployment benefits. “I think this is an opportunity for us to sit down and negotiate a compromise on this,” Kyl said.

The idea of a compromise on taxes received a prod from one of America’s richest citizens, Warren Buffett, on ABC’s This Week program. Asked by host Christiane Amanpour whether he agrees with former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan’s statement that all Bush-era tax cuts should come to an end, Buffett said he believes they should be extended “for the lower class, middle class, maybe upper-middle class” but that “you should raise taxes on the very rich.”

Lawmakers also suggested that they were willing to engage on forthcoming proposals by President Obama’s deficit commission, including changes in Social Security payouts. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said on Fox that he was issuing “a challenge” to increase the age of eligibility for anyone under age 55, while McCaskill endorsed means testing.

 

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