Lawmakers stand firm on taxes as talks start

December 1, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats and Republicans are working to reach a deal to extend Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year, but neither side is budging as negotiations begin in earnest.

Even as they talk, House leaders are planning to hold a politically charged vote Thursday to extend middle-class tax cuts while letting taxes for the wealthy expire.

The bill, even if it passes the House, stands no chance in the Senate. Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he is considering holding a similar vote.

“House Democrats have long supported extending the tax cuts for America’s middle class,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “Democrats continue to have concerns about the impact on the deficit of giving a tax cut to the nation’s wealthiest 2 percent.”

President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders from both parties Tuesday at the White House to discuss taxes and other issues. Republicans and Democrats said it was a cordial, productive meeting. But both sides emerged with the same stances on tax cuts, a pending nuclear treaty with Russia and other pressing matters.

They agreed to appoint a bipartisan working group to discuss the tax cuts. The four lawmakers and two administration members won’t have much time to come up with a deal to prevent sweeping tax increases that would hit taxpayers at every income level. The first meeting is Wednesday.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Budget Director Jack Lew was going to Capitol Hill Wednesday, saying that Obama “believes we can find common ground.” Gibbs said both sides on this dispute have a responsibility “to figure this out by the end of the year.”

Appearing on morning network news shows, the spokesman also said he’s confident that Obama can win Senate ratification of the New START nuclear pact before Christmas, saying Republicans increasingly are moving in the direction of supporting the treaty.

Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress want to extend tax cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000. Republicans and some rank-and-file Democrats want to extend the tax cuts for everyone.

Obama signaled he was ready to compromise after elections in which Republicans won control of the House and gained seats in the Senate. But the president has yet to make a detailed proposal.

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