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CBC on tax cuts: This isn't Oprah or Santa Claus

From NBC's Shawna Thomas
The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said it best herself, "I think when you look at the record, members of the CBC…have supported 99.9% of the President's agenda." But today they held a press conference to say on the issue of President Obama's tax cut compromise, the "overwhelming majority" of the CBC "are opposed to the current tax plan."

"The vast majority of CBC members are opposed to the estate tax provision and to extending the Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent of Americans," Lee said.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who has led a CBC task force on drafting an alternative plan, came out earlier this week against extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts, but said the plan the CBC put together would be about half the cost of the president's proposal. The CBC plan gets to their number by nixing the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and modifying the estate tax. Scott said the CBC had reached a consensus on three areas:

- A 13-month extension on Emergency Unemployment Insurance Benefits plus additional assistance for the chronically unemployed
- A payroll tax holiday or equivalent payment with guarantees that Social Security will not be deprived of revenue.
- A two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for middle- and low-income families and an extension of provisions such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Credit.

Scott's biggest concern was how the president's plan is going to be paid for.

"Finally, we have a choice," Scott said. "If we are going to do a tax cut, somebody is going to eventually have to pay for it and you can't give everybody a tax cut like it's Oprah Winfrey or Santa Claus. You get a tax cut. You get a tax cut. And eventually somebody is going to have to pay for it."

Many in the CBC seem worried that when the Republicans take over the House next year, the way it will get paid for is by repealing health care or cutting back on education spending. Scott took it one step further, "We're on track to essentially extend them all. The idea that you're going to extend them into a presidential year and then cut them? We've already established the principle that failure to extend the tax cut constitutes a tax increase. And if we can't do that, if we can't cut them off now, what is the chance we're going to be able to do it… in the middle of a presidential, congressional election…The last presidential candidate running on a platform of increasing taxes was Walter Mondale. That was not a successful strategy."

But it wasn't clear how exactly they would get the bill changed. Lee said, "We're going to look at what takes place and determine our strategy as this evolves. Certainly there are a variety legislative strategies and options that we are considering but at this point we don't know exactly how this will play out."

Lee also said she'd like to see the President come to the Hill to talk to the House Democrats. "I'm sure the President would hear the same message that we delivered to Vice President Biden."