Dem Rep. Connolly: 'Got to Look at' Ending Tax Cuts for Middle Class

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

President Obama has drawn battle lines with Republicans over his bid to end tax cuts for those who make more than $250,000 a year – a position the president had to move away from late last year to preserve tax cuts for the middle class.

But some Democrats are urging party leaders to look more broadly at potential revenue sources – including the tax cuts for middle-class Americans that Obama has promised to keep intact.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told us that while he supported extending all of the tax cuts as part of the deal cut last year, Congress must reexamine all of them as it seeks to address the gaping deficit and national debt.

“I do not favor the permanent extension of that tax cut [for the wealthy], and frankly I think we’ve got to look at whether we can afford the middle-class tax cut permanently,” Connolly said.

“Between the two of them, that's $3.3 trillion we can't afford. And so if we decide we're going to go with one or the other or both, somebody's going to have to figure out how to pay for it, or else they're going to have to give up their commitment to deficit reduction.”

All of the tax cuts and more have to be part of an honest conversation about spending, he said.

“Everything has to be on the table,” Connolly said. “We have to have an honest discussion and we have to set priorities and we have to express our values. If we decide that those tax cuts are among our highest priorities and represent our community values, great, but then we're going to have to figure out how we're going to pay for them, because it is going to cost. It's not cost free. And that's true about every choice we make.”

“I think much of the discussion here in Washington, frankly, has been dishonest in that it focuses narrowly on one band of spending, to the exclusion of a discussion about revenues, tax expenditures, entitlement programs, and national defense. All of which has to be on the table in this broad national discussion about our priorities and our values.”

Connolly also attacked the House-passed Republican budget authored by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, saying it “dismantles Medicare as we know it.”

“We were beat up last year by groups like this ’60 Plus’ Republican group -- sort of a front group for the Republicans pretending to speak for senior citizens -- because we were ‘threatening Medicare as we know it.’ Now they come along and endorse a plan that dismantles Medicare as we know it. That isn't the solution. Making Medicare more efficient, trying to bring down overall health care costs from which Medicare would benefit, is critical.”

“But dismantling Medicare, a program which most Republicans opposed when it started in 1965, is absolutely not the answer. And I think it's perpetrating a fraud on the American people that that's the stark choice they face. If you want to reduce the deficit you've got to get rid of Medicare. That's a phony choice. It's dishonest. It's intellectually wrong. And we're going to fight it with every breath we've got.”

And Connolly said he believes President Obama and Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine start the 2012 campaign with a “real advantage” in his home state of Virginia, predicting 80 percent turnout next year.

“Not only is that twice the turnout [from last year’s midterm congressional elections], but who are those extra people who are coming out and voting in a presidential year? And in my district those -- a lot of those folks are very sympathetic to the Democratic message, and would be very supportive to President Obama.”

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