ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:
Senate Democrats today acknowledged that they will almost definitely delay a debate and vote on extending the Bush tax cuts until the lame-duck session after the November elections.
“The reality is nothing’s going to happen before the elections,” the Senate’s number-two Democrat Dick Durbin said after a caucus meeting this afternoon.
While Durbin said Majority Leader Harry Reid “will make the final decision,” the Illinois lawmaker admitted that “the likelihood of our passing anything by way of tax extensions is very very slim.”
“Harry will make the final decision on this, but the reality is we are not going to pass what needs to be passed to change this either in the Senate or in the House before the election,” Durbin said.
“Look at what we’re up against now,” he stated. “We can’t bring a bipartisan food safety bill to the floor.”
“There’s no evidence of any bipartisan spirit to deal with the bigger issues.”
“We know the reality here – we are so tightly wound up in this campaign that it’s impossible to see a bipartisan answer to the challenges we face,” he said.
Only nine days ago Reid told reporters that the Senate would vote before lawmakers head home at the end of this month for a last-minute campaign push, but now it seems a foregone conclusion that this will not happen.
As Democrats themselves acknowledged today, they are a party divided.
“Opinions were all over the place,” said Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., of the caucus meeting. Bayh, who is retiring this fall, has broken with his party to support an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
“The problem is it’s substantively very complicated and politically very complicated,” he said. “Around this place it’s hard to get action under the best of circumstances, let alone circumstances as difficult as these.”
Some members of Reid's party up for re-election prefer to delay the vote until the lame-duck session because Republicans have already started to accuse them of trying to raise taxes in the middle of a recession. In addition, a handful of Democrats such as Bayh want to extend the tax cuts for all Americans, not only those making under $250,000 as the White House has requested.
The tax cuts will expire on January 1 unless Congress acts.