As lawmakers brace for the fiscal cliff that has widely become known in the nation's capital as " Taxmageddon," Congressional Republicans set out today to present a unified front as the top leaders from both chambers urged Democrats to extend all of the current tax rates for at least one year.
House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team were joined this morning by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said that a one-year extension of the current rates would create certainty for job creators and give Congress time to negotiate comprehensive tax reform next year.
"It's pretty obvious that the economy needs the certainty of the extension of the current tax rates for at least a year," McConnell, R-Ky., said. "That would also give us the time to begin to grapple with something we all agree we need to do on a bipartisan basis, which is to reform the whole tax code. That hasn't been done in a quarter of a century and I think Republicans and Democrats agree that we need to do that once again."
If the tax cuts expire at the end of the year, joint filers making more than $250,000 per year would see their taxes increase, as would individuals making more than $200,000 annually. President Obama and Congressional Democrats prefer to extend only the current tax cuts for the middle class taxpayers, and believe that the rates for the highest earners should return to tax levels in place during the Clinton administration.
"Last week's jobs report was certainly bad news for the American people and once again shows that the president's economic policies have failed," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "Extending all of the current tax rates for at least a year is really important if we're going to help job creators gain a little more confidence and put Americans back to work."
Nearly each Republican leader pointed to ambiguous comments by former President Bill Clinton on CNBC Tuesday, when multiple news organizations reported his opposition to letting the 2001 and 2003 tax rates expire. A spokesman later clarified Clinton's comments, insisting that he "does not believe the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended again."
That clarification didn't stop Republicans from exploiting the confusion, which was compounded by comments today by Obama's former director of the White House's National Economic Council Larry Summers, who also reportedly signaled support for a temporary extension of all rates when he said, "We've got to make sure that we don't take gasoline out of the tank at the end of this year."
Despite the haziness of what Clinton and Summers really meant by their comments, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Democrats "are now actually coming to the realization we got to do everything we can to start growing this economy." He called on Democrats to join Republicans to "say it to the American people once and for all: we're not going to let tax rates to go up on anybody."
The House is expected to vote on a Republican proposal to extend all of the current tax rates some time before the August recess.
Boehner also reacted to Gov. Scott Walker win in Wisconsin's recall election last night, telling reporters that the vote is affirmation for the governor and his policies.
"Wisconsin's election shows that when you listen to the people of your jurisdiction, or in the case of Governor Walker, when you listen to the people of Wisconsin and you follow their will, they're going to stand behind you," the speaker said. "They've taken some bold action in Wisconsin and Wisconsinites clearly support it."
"The American people have had it with big government and high taxes and a regulatory system that knows no bounds," the speaker said. "They want elected officials to take control of the situation so that American job creators can go back to doing what they do best: creating jobs."