Senate Braces For Looming Tax Cuts Battle

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:

A showdown on the Bush tax cuts is looming after lawmakers return from a week-long Thanksgiving break.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today said as soon as Congress reconvenes from the holiday, Democrats will start setting politically-charged votes on extending the tax cuts. The Senate, Reid indicated, will vote both on a Democratic proposal to extend the tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans and on a Republican plan to extend them for everyone including the wealthy. The tax cuts are set to expire on Dec. 31.

“We’re united in recognizing that we have to protect the middle class because, obviously, the Republicans aren’t doing that,” Reid told reporters today after a meeting of his caucus.

Senate Democrats have been gathered in closed-door meetings for much of the week to come up with a strategy for the lame-duck session. Today’s meeting in the Capitol followed a trip to the White House for the party’s leaders to meet with President Obama, a trip that left Reid confident that they have the president’s full support in the tax fight, despite talk that a compromise with the GOP was in the works.

“Do I think I have the president's backing for a middle-income tax cut only? I say yes,” said Reid, who noted that he is open either to a temporary or a permanent extension of the middle-class tax cuts.

Across the aisle, the top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell has proposed a plan to extend all the tax cuts, including those for the wealthy, a move that would prove costly to the nation’s rising debt. Reid today said he will gladly give the GOP the chance to go on record as supporting lower taxes for the wealthy even if it means higher deficits going forward.

“Sen. McConnell has offered legislation to extend them all, costing $4 trillion. If he wants a vote on that, I'll be happy to help to arrange that,” Reid said.

Upon returning from the break, before the tax battle can unfold, Reid, McConnell, and House leaders from both parties will meet with the president on Nov. 30.

“Votes structured for symbolic reasons in December won’t prevent a tax hike in January,” replied McConnell in a statement shortly after Reid’s remarks. “It’s not enough to talk about the problem of the looming tax hike on families and hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the country—we have to fix it. And fixing this problem should be our priority in the limited time remaining this year—not forcing votes on the liberal wish list.”

“The deadline to prevent a tax hike on every American taxpayer is January 1, and the clock is ticking,” he warned. “While some in Congress have a strange desire to raise taxes on hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the country, Republicans and a growing chorus of Democrats believe that no one should have the government take even more out of their paycheck next year.”

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