ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
The Congressional Black Caucus today said it is overwhelmingly opposed to President Obama’s proposed deal on tax cuts, with members criticizing the plan’s inclusion of an extension for high-income Bush-era tax cuts and an estate tax cut provision as a “bad deal for African Americans” and a scheme that “disproportionately hurts the poor.”
At a press conference earlier today, Rep. Barbara Lee, the chairwoman of the CBC, emphasized the message she says she told Vice President Biden Wednesday that “the overwhelmingly majority of the Congressional Black Caucus members are opposed to the current tax plan.”
“The vast majority of CBC members are opposed to the estate tax provision, and to extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans,” Lee, D-California, said. “We are extremely concerned that the cuts that could be made should this package pass would disproportionately hurt the poor, and low income communities and further erode the safety net. We don’t want to create a situation today that will exacerbate the conditions for Americans who are already hurting. That would be unfair and that would be unwise.”
When asked whether the deal proposed by President Obama would be bad for African Americans specifically, U.S. Virgin Islands delegate Donna Christensen, said it would be harmful to African Americans because it could take money away that would otherwise be steered toward other programs.
“I do think that a major part of our objection is that we feel that it’s going to be bad for African Americans,” Christensen said. “The Republicans have said, for example on health care reform, that one of the ways they plan to attack it is by the appropriations process, by starving the provisions, and I think this is the first step.”
Although reports have spread across Capitol Hill that a House Democrat at the caucus yesterday uttered the phrase “F— the President,” while expressing frustration over the proposed deal, Christensen says the opposition is nothing personal against President Obama.
“We're not against our president. We're advocating for what he and all of us have worked for all along, ensuring that this country's strong, competitive globally and remains the leader of the free world. That can only happen when there's equal opportunity for all who live here,” Christensen said. “It will not happen if we borrow and spend all of that money on an unnecessary giveaway to those who don't need it, won't spend it and won't create jobs with it. That's why we oppose this agreement the president has reached with the Republican leadership.”
Rep. Bobby Scott, however, further criticized the President’s proposed deal, pointing out that there is no plan to pay for the tradeoffs that President Obama negotiated with Congressional Republican leaders.
Scott, D-Virginia, said that Congress should allow all of the tax cuts to expire because he worries that extending them would force “draconian spending cuts to vital programs that Congress will have to make next year.”
“We’ve only seen half the deal. We’ve seen all these tax cuts that are very popular, everybody likes a tax cut. How are they paid for? Are you going to repeal health care? Save a trillion dollars? Are you going to cut back on education? How is it paid for? I mean, we’re only hearing half the proposal,” Scott said. “We’ve already established the principle that failure to extend the tax cut constitutes a tax increase, and if we can’t do that, if we can’t cut them off now, what is the chance we are going to be able to do it – increase taxes – in the middle of a presidential/ congressional election?”
Scott, a member of the House Budget Committee, outlined the CBC’s tax cuts proposal that he says would cost “approximately one-half of the president's proposal and will create virtually the same number of jobs.”
The CBC’s plan endorses a 13-month extension for Unemployment Insurance, expressed support for a payroll tax holiday rebate check, and calls for a two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle income and lower income brackets as long as the package does not deprive revenue from Social Security. The CBC’s plan also proposes extending the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
Scott told reporters that a temporary extension of the tax cuts for all income levels could hurt President Obama’s reelection chances in two years.
“The Tea Party will be intimidating all of the Republicans into getting in line to make these permanent,” Scott said. “What are the Democrats going to do? The last presidential candidate that I remember running on a platform of increasing taxes was Walter Mondale, and that was not successful strategy.”
“I recognize that we’re in a recovery. If we adopt this [CBC] plan at half the costs, we’ll have a lot more resources to actually deal with job creation,” Scott added. “We have a choice. If you’re going to do a tax cut, someone’s going to eventually have to pay for it and you can’t give everybody a tax cut like it’s Oprah Winfrey or Santa Clause. You get a tax cut, you get a tax cut — and eventually somebody's going to have to pay for it. We need to make all these decisions right at the same time. And what we are suggesting is that we let many of these tax cuts expire and then deal with the tough choices next year.”
Christensen agreed that a two-year extension would put Congressional Democrats in a difficult position in 2012, facing Democrats once again with the prospect of a tax hikes trap in the middle of a presidential election cycle.
“This is just gives our Republican colleagues another chance to play gotcha. If we extend the upper-end tax cuts and add that big estate tax giveaway, then when we move to fund implementation of the affordable care act, there will be no money. Gotcha. And when the 2012 election rolls around and the tax cuts are about to expire, if we don't extend them again, we the Democrats will be accused of raising taxes. Gotcha,” Christensen said. “Well, we're not playing that.”