House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged Republicans to allow a vote on legislation to extend tax cuts on the first $250,000 of personal income and delay the debate over tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers until next year.
"This doesn't have to be a cliffhanger," Pelosi, D-Calif., said after a meeting Thursday afternoon with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. "The president has his pen poised to sign a middle-income tax cut. It has already passed the Senate. House Democrats are prepared to vote for it. We urge our Republican colleagues in the House to bring a middle-income tax cut to the floor."
Pelosi surmised that extending tax breaks for the middle class would be "a Christmas present to the American people" that would not only increase the confidence of consumers, but also financial markets.
"The president has been clear, and we support him, on holding firm to the…expiration of tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year," she added. "That would be part of a big, bold and balanced package that has big cuts."
A senior aide to the speaker revealed that Geithner came to Boehner with an offer of $1.6 trillion in tax increases over the next decade, an undisclosed amount of new stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and an end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits.
Another attendee at the Geithner meeting, the Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina, called the meeting "very fruitful."
"The time for posturing is over," Clyburn said. "We are in the holiday season when people would love to turn to their families with some certainty, and I think we ought to give them that."
Rep. Xavier Becerra, the Democratic Caucus chairman, said that Geithner's equation is "simple math" and results in "a bold but balanced plan that could easily get the [president's] signature and votes" to pass into law.
"We believe that we can move forward," Becerra, D-Calif., said. "At least let us vote here in the House of Representatives on what has already passed in the Senate on a bipartisan basis, and that is protection for the middle class from seeing the rates rise for them."
While Boehner seemed glum about the prospects of a deal, Pelosi said she was confident the leaders would strike a bipartisan agreement.
"Why am I confident? Because it's the right thing to do," she said. "They're tough choices for us. This isn't easy, but it's necessary, and I have confidence that my Republican colleagues will see the light and at least pass the middle-income tax cut."