Johnson calls for middle class tax-cut extensionDemocrats seek leverage as fiscal cliff looms at year’s end.
By: Staff reports, The Associated Press and the Daily Republic
WASHINGTON — Democrats are going all-in in a fiscal game of chicken, saying they’ll let everyone’s income taxes rise on Jan. 1 and slash defense spending amid 8-plus percent unemployment if Republicans continue to balk at raising taxes just on those making more than $250,000 a year.
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., blamed Republicans for playing partisan politics with the issue in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
“We should not let partisan politics threaten tax rates for families with incomes of less than $250,000,” Johnson said. “If Congress doesn’t act, middle class families will see their taxes go up by $2,200 on Jan. 1. Working families in these tough economic times should have the certainty of knowing their taxes won’t go up in six months.
“We should act soon. It’s the right thing to do.”
While Republicans argue that excluding top income earners from tax cuts would hurt small businesses and job creation, Johnson said many small business owners would get the middle class tax break. Not extending the middle class tax cut would hit the economy, he said.
“A middle class tax increase would be a serious drag on the economy,” Johnson said. “The super-rich have benefitted the most from these tax breaks. We can no longer afford to give tax cuts to those who need them the least. The very wealthy need to pay their fair share.”
The nation needs to invest in education, infrastructure and Medicare, Johnson said.
Democrats are rolling out such rhetoric as President Barack Obama and Congress come to grips with the possibility that gridlock and stalemate will result in the government careening off a fiscal cliff in January with automatic tax increases, spending cuts and an approaching exhaustion of borrowing ability.
“If we can’t get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013 rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle-class families under the bus,” Sen. Patty Murray, DWash., said in a speech Monday.
Murray’s salvo was the latest in an almost daily back-and-forth between top Republicans and Democrats over the one-two punch facing the economy in January: expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the imposition of $110 billion in automatic spending cuts, half coming from defense.
“They’re ready and willing to go right off the fiscal cliff if they don’t get their way,” said Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “Because they think it will make it likelier they’ll get their way.”