‘Top Line’ – Freshman Dems Hold Out Over Taxes in Health Care Bill

By Lindsey Ellerson

Jul 24, 2009 1:55pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Among the multitude of factions that President Obama and his allies are negotiating with over health care reform, there’s one particularly surprising group of hold-outs: A group of nearly two dozen freshman Democrats who are concerned that draft legislation would involve tax hikes that are too steep. The group is being led by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who represents a relatively liberal Boulder-based district but comes to Congress with an entrepreneur’s background that leaves him concerned about the potential impact of health care reform on small businesses. Polis circulated a letter to House leaders expressing concern over a proposal that would impose a new surtax on families and businesses earning more than $350,000. The letter drew the signatures of 22 House members – including those of 21 freshman Democrats – and forced House leaders to modify their proposal. On ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today, Polis the revision to impact only higher-income individuals and businesses “improves the bill,” but indicated that he’s not sure that current versions of the legislation go far enough in limiting tax increases. “There’s a lot of opportunities out there–  including some of Obama’s own proposals for cost-cutting –which weren’t in the initial House version of the bill, and I hope will work its way into future House versions of the bill, reducing the need to raise taxes at all. Taxes are a place you should go to last after all cost cutting has been exhausted,” Polis told us. Polis voted against the health care bill in the Education and Labor Committee, citing the impact the bill would have on small businesses. “We expressed a concern that it was too high, affected too many people and as it was constructed would have a negative effect on small business,” Polis said of the letter he circulated. “If we can cut costs, need less taxes, I could certainly live with a surcharge if it’s less and kicks in at a higher level and is a lower percentage — that would be a big step in the right direction. It really relates to the other side of the coin, which is cost-savings. Let’s find some more costs to pull out of the system.” We also asked Polis about his recent appointment to the Air Force Academy’s Board of Visitors, the academy’s advisory board. Polis last year became the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a non-incumbent. He’s a strong proponent of repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies, but said he wouldn’t use his perch on the academy board to change policies controlled by Congress and the Obama administration. ” I’m going to Colorado Springs this weekend for the first meeting of that board and very much looking forward to it,” Polis said. “We do have a commander-in-chief who stated that he will be changing that policy, and I hope to be of value to the academy and the military in working through that transition, and make sure that our LGBT cadets feel comfortable and are welcomed at our military institutions.” He added: “Obviously the Air Force Academy in and of itself is not going to change the policy before or after anything else, but they absolutely should be doing transition planning right now.” Watch the segment HERE, and find out what Rep. Polis’ nickname was when he was an undergraduate at Princeton. (I had inside information on this front, since I was two years behind him in college.) Also today, we caught up with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on the latest on the president’s reaction to the Skip Gates matter in Cambridge, and on the push for health care. The president, Stephanopoulos said, needs “almost a complete re-set in September” to put his top legislative agenda item back on track. Click HERE to see the interview with George Stephanopoulos.

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