ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports:
In an indication that Republicans are predictably more pleased with the new tax cuts deal than Democrats, top Senate Republicans tonight hailed the deal as “an important first step,” thanked the Obama administration for its “determined efforts,” and called on Democrats to “show the same openness” as the White House.
“I appreciate the determined efforts of the president and vice president in working with Republicans on a bipartisan plan to prevent a tax hike on any American and in creating incentives for economic growth,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “Their efforts reflect a growing bipartisan belief that a new direction is needed if we are to revive the economy and help put millions of Americans back to work. Members of the Senate and House will review this bipartisan agreement, but I am optimistic that Democrats in Congress will show the same openness to preventing tax hikes the administration has already shown.”
The Senate’s number-two Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, struck a similar tone.
“Tonight’s announcement marks an important first step in giving all American families and businesses the certainty that their taxes will not increase on Jan. 1,” Kyl said. “While I wanted the rates to be made permanent, the current political makeup of this lame-duck Congress would not allow that. What is important now is that we avert a massive tax increase that would further depress an already frail economy.”
Across the aisle, meanwhile, one congressional Democratic aide predicted that the White House-GOP tax deal will have a tougher road getting passed by the House than by the Senate.
In the Senate, the aide said, pretty much all 42 Republicans on board, plus Democrats such as Sens. Joe Lieberman, Joe Manchin, Ben Nelson, Jim Webb and others who want the tax cuts extended for all Americans, plus others such as Sen. Blanche Lincoln who have gotten pieces such as the estate tax included in the compromise, the road to 60 votes does not appear to be quite that daunting. The House, meanwhile, has a wider Democratic majority and is more reactionary.
“The sense is that this is not a great deal and it’s not going to be easy sledding with the caucus, but it will be rougher sledding in the House,” the aide said.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, blasted the deal, taking aim at Republicans for fighting for the wealthy.
“To say that I am disappointed with the deal the president laid out tonight is an understatement," Harkin said. "Senate Republicans have successfully used the fragile economic security of our middle class and the hardship of millions of jobless Americans as bargaining chips to secure tax breaks for very wealthiest among us. With record unemployment and millions of Americans falling off the benefit rolls just as we near Christmas, America faces an emergency situation, and under these circumstances the validity of extending unemployment benefits and tax rates for the middle class stands on its own. The same cannot be said for extending tax breaks for millionaires – they face no immediate hardship, such a move will not spur economic growth, and doing so will only add hundreds of billions to the deficit. In addition, by extending tax rates for two years but unemployment benefits for only one, we almost ensure that a Republican-led Congress will be able to block a further extension of unemployment benefits if they are needed.
“I’ve asked this question before, and tonight I ask it again," he said. "Have the Republicans lost all sense of fairness? Have they lost all sense of justice? Have they lost all sense of what's right and wrong? They can fight for their tax breaks for the wealthy, fine. But to say that we cannot extend unemployment benefits for people out of work without giving tax breaks to the wealthy – that's a moral outrage."