ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team are working this afternoon to reach a solution to move forward on the tax cuts legislation after Democratic opposition to proceed on the bill forced the Democratic leadership to pull the tax cuts package from the floor.
Democratic leadership pulled the tax cuts bill from the floor after it became apparent that liberals would not vote to pass the Rule, according to a senior Democratic leadership aide.
The Democratic aide says that while the minority party never votes for rules and Democrats were not counting on Republican support to pass the rule, today it became "clear the votes weren’t quite there" from House Democrats either.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, the chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, explained the concerns raised by the majority of House Democrats, telling reporters that Democratic members were frustrated that they would not get the opportunity for a clear vote on the underlying tax cuts bill.
"This was a concurring resolution, and it's different in lots of ways, and the way this was written was if Pomeroy [amendment to change the estate tax break] passes under a concurring resolution, [the tax cuts legislation] goes right immediately back to the Senate, and there's no other vote on this bill,” Slaughter said. “A lot of our members would like another vote, chance to vote no, or yes, maybe someone. And that's the discussion."
When asked which members specifically had a problem with the way the rule was structured, Slaughter let out a hearty laugh and said, "Just about everybody, would be my best answer, including me!"
Slaughter, D-New York, said House Democrats are now devising a strategy to move forward with the bill and she planned to go over the options this afternoon with the House Parliamentarian.
Some House Democrats said that by adding $858 billion to the deficit, the House will be forced to cut spending from other programs that need the money.
“Just two weeks ago the President’s position was the same as the vast majority of the caucus,” Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. said. “We compromised and the President changed his position. We respect that. He needs to move the country forward. Our question is at what cost?”
The most vocal gripe from House Democrats is that they want to change the estate tax to levels passed by the House last year that would exempt inheritances up to $3.5 million and tax estates at a 45 percent rate.
“The White House supports the White House bill, their message has been consistent,” Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, said. “We’d like to improve the bill and make it less expensive.”
Wednesday evening, Pelosi said the Pomeroy amendment would save $25 billion from being added the deficit, and would affect only 6,600 more families than the lower rate and higher exemption in the tax deal negotiated by President Obama and GOP leaders in Congress.
“We always have a continuing feast of debate in our Caucus over the subjects that seem very unfair to Members there — where we have a situation where we have a proposal before us that gives 6,600 families in America $25 billion and holds the rest of the provisions in the bill, the middle-income tax cuts, those kinds of issues hostage to that blackmail,” Pelosi said. “Think of what you could do with that $25 billion. You could address the issues that affect America’s families very directly—their health, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart disease, you name it. There is a crying need for more funding for research in those directions. We could raise a small piece of it, raise the salaries of our teachers across the country. We could create jobs. Instead, we are giving tax cuts to 6,600 families that do not create jobs, that increase the deficit, and that are unfair to the middle class.”
House Democrats are expected to meet once again this afternoon with party leadership behind closed doors in an attempt to reach a solution. Sources said the leadership is expected to resolve the hiccup over the rule and that the House will take further action on the tax cuts legislation later today.