Local congressional members pressured to vote for tax bill

December 15, 2010 7:30:24 PM PST
Bay Area members of Congress are under pressure to support an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. The plan sailed through the Senate and now the White House is calling on members of the House to follow suit.

The Senate version of the tax bill is going down hard among Bay Area members of Congress. Yes, it extends tax cuts for the middle class and benefits for the unemployed, but the $858 billion bill also continues tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

In the Senate on Wednesday, both Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer voted for the tax cut package, but not without reservations.

"Do I feel passionate that the people who earn over $1 million don't need a tax cut? You bet I do," said Barbara Boxer, D-California.

But in the end, it passed with the overwhelming support of both parties -- 81 to 19. The bill now goes to the House where few liberal Democrats support it.

"I don't believe it'll get through the House without being amended," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

Speier says the bill's provision to increase the estate tax exemption would give $25 billion to 6,600 of the nation's wealthiest families.

"At some point, are we ever going to talk about living within our means?" said Speier.

On Wednesday, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi echoed that argument.

"Think of what you could do with that $25 billion. First of all, you could reduce the deficit," said Pelosi.

Ironically that's been the message of the conservative Tea Party. Could progressives and the far right join forces? Not likely.

"The deciders in the House will be the Republicans and the blue dog Democrats," said ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain, Ph.D.

Cain said if Republicans and moderate Democrats continue to support the tax measure, liberal opposition won't matter.

"They'll try to do what they can to get the best concession at the last minute, but to be honest, they're bargaining out of a position of weakness and the odds are they're not going to win," said Cain.

The vote could come as early as Thursday and it's a fluid situation.

"We'll get a better deal here. Negotiations are underway there's been an uprising among my Democratic colleagues," said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove on Monday.

On Wednesday, Garamendi was among a list of Bay Area Democrats that either wouldn't say or did not respond when we asked if they would support the Senate version of the tax bill.

Of the 12 Bay Area members of the House, only Speier, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, openly oppose the Senate version. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Santa Rosa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Concord, say they are leaning towards voting no. And the Speaker of the House says she has no position.

On Wednesday, 31 moderate Democrats -- so-called blue dogs -- have already told Pelosi they intend to support the Senate version. Republican leaders say most of their members will also support it. That means, give or take a few, only 30 more Democrats are needed for passage. The White House is calling Democrats to lean on them to vote yes, but you can expect that pressure is ramping up.


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