Democrats Ready to Risk ‘Cliff’ for Obama’s Taxes on Higher-Earners

Photograph by Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

Sen. Mary Landrieu, center, and Sen. Christopher Coons, left, arrive for a news conference on the debt on Capitol Hill.

Congressional Democrats have developed a get-tough strategy to try to force Republicans to go along with President Barack Obama’s call for higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

If Republicans continue their opposition to more revenue from top earners, Democrats say, they are prepared to go over the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year — allowing the George W. Bush-era tax cuts to temporarily expire for everyone on Dec. 31 and accepting scheduled spending reductions, including for Pentagon programs favored by Republicans.

Democrats who say their party blinked two years ago by not separating lower rates for the richest taxpayers from those for the middle class maintain they have the leverage to prevail this time, saying no deal on taxes and spending would be better than a bad deal.

Obama telegraphed the approach yesterday through his spokesman Jay Carney, who said the president would veto a bill to extend lower tax rates for the richest Americans. Democrats say it’s part of their drive to underscore that the main area of disagreement between the two parties is over continuing tax breaks for the nation’s highest earners.

“Republicans have been mindlessly lockstep against putting any new revenues on the table, and until they do, there will be no deal,” said Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat.

Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Charles Schumer have been resolute in recent caucus meetings, warning members against voting for a compromise that fails to include tax sacrifice from the nation’s highest earners, according to leadership aides.

Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said talks will go into 2013 if there’s no agreement on revenue. “This is the Republicans’ choice, either they can provide tax relief to 99 percent of the American people or we’ll get it done after the end of the year,” he said in an interview.

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