Obama predicts tax bill passage, possible changes

By Stephen Ohlemacher

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 10 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, from left, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Del. Donna Christensen, D-V.I., leave the podium after they spoke against President Obama's proposed tax cuts, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is predicting congressional approval of the tax-cutting compromise he has reached with Republican leaders, but he's not ruling out that unhappy Democrats will make some changes in the mammoth legislation.

In an interview with NPR released Friday, Obama said that despite a rebellion by many Democrats against his tax deal, it will pass because "nobody — Democrat or Republican — wants to see people's paychecks smaller on Jan. 1 because Congress didn't act."

The pact would extend cuts in income tax rates for all earners that would otherwise expire next month, renew long-term jobless benefits and trim Social Security taxes for one year.

Mounting a lobbying effort to different audiences by the day, the White House on Friday turned its focus to women.

Obama aides met Friday morning with women's groups and presented an administration analysis of how elements of the tax deal, particularly extensions of a tax credit for low-income workers and another one for qualifying families with children, would particularly help working women.

Meanwhile Friday, the Congressional Black Caucus said its members are "overwhelmingly opposed" to the tax cut compromise. The group's leaders said they embrace the payroll tax reduction and extension of unemployment benefits in the plan. But extending Bush-era tax cuts for the nation's highest earners is unfair, unneeded and unaffordable, they said.

"If we recklessly cut taxes for the wealthiest 2 percent, then Obamanomics will look an awful lot like Reaganomics," said Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., D-Ill.

Many Democrats have objected to the deal on grounds it is too generous to the rich, especially its provisions cutting estate taxes for the wealthiest Americans. House Democrats voted in a closed-door meeting Thursday not to allow the package to reach the floor for a vote without changes to scale back tax relief for the rich.

Asked about those objections, Obama said there will be talks between House and Senate leaders about the package's final details.

"Keep in mind, we didn't actually write a bill," he said of his agreement with GOP leaders. "We put forward a framework. I'm confident that the framework is going to look like the one that we put forward."

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., one of the House's highest-profile conservatives, said that Democratic discontent highlights the difference between the two parties.

"The compromise that was forged wasn't rich enough for Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats," Bachmann said on NBC's "Today" show, referring to Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "They want the taxes up even higher. And that's really where the line of demarcation is in this discussion."

Speaking separately, Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic Party, said Democrats objecting to Obama's tax deal may be showing voters in their districts that they have "some spine" and predicted that the two-year extension of the lowered income tax rates would eventually help Democrats.

"By extending it two years, and I think this is going to happen, you're putting the debate about tax cuts for the wealthiest right in the heart of the presidential election. I think the president feels very confident he can make the case," Kaine said on CBS' "Early Show."

The measure appears headed for Senate approval after negotiators added a few sweeteners to promote ethanol and other forms of alternative energy.

Tax provisions designed to increase production of hybrid automobiles, biodiesel fuel, energy-efficient homes, coal and energy-efficient household appliances would be extended through the end of 2011.

There is no precise timetable for passage in the Senate, but a test vote was set for Monday afternoon that appears likely to demonstrate overwhelming support for the legislation. Supporters say it would help accelerate a sluggish recovery from recession.

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