ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
Blue Dog Democrat Jim Matheson of Utah told ABC News that the number one issue his constituents are talking about is “jobs and the economy” and that’s why he’s leading an effort to persuade party leaders to temporarily extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
“In the short run with our economy where it is right now, I don’t think we should be raising taxes,” Matheson said in an interview with Amy Walter and Rick Klein on “Top Line.”
Matheson is part of a group of centrist Democrats who have drafted a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer calling on them to extend the income tax cuts put in place during the Bush administration, including those for high-income Americans.
“While those in the highest income brackets comprise only two to three percent of American taxpayers, economists estimate that they are responsible for 25 percent of national consumer spending,” the letter reads. “As 70 percent of our economy is driven by consumer spending, this is not the time to jeopardize further growth."
Matheson said that extending the tax breaks for one or two years would also give a boost to small business owners, who according to the letter, make up one-third of upper-income taxpayers and are the “the backbone of our economic recovery.”
Other Democrats who have signed on to the letter include Glenn Nye of Virginia, Melissa Bean of Illinois and Gary Peters of Michigan.
Democratic leaders and the White House have been pushing for an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class — those earning less than $250,000 — while letting the cuts expire for Americans earning above that threshold. But Democratic disunity on the issue appears to be growing as Matheson and other lawmakers split with President Obama.
Matheson, the only Democratic member of Congress from heavily Republican Utah, said on “Top Line” that both parties were to blame for the sour economy, saying that inaction and squabbling in Washington is breeding uncertainty across the country.
“People are tired of that bickering,” he said. “They expect people back here to act like big boys and girls.”
Lawmakers, he added, should be talking about one thing heading into the fall election season: “Getting the economy back on its feet.”
- Michael Falcone