WASHINGTON -- House Democrats gathered in the Capitol Tuesday evening
to debate the tax-cut deal President Barack Obama struck with
Republicans, but as it turned out, they were already in agreement to an
extent rarely seen on the left side of the lower chamber.
Across the board, Democrats who attended the meeting said, Obama's
deal was deemed too costly, too tilted toward the rich and too much of a
cave to Republicans.
"The wealthiest few in the country come out like gangbusters," said
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), a Blue Dog who said he would oppose the
deal. Many other Blue Dogs, Pomeroy said, would also vote down the
package, on the grounds that it adds heavily to the debt.
Even if every House Republican signs on, Obama needs 39 Democrats to
vote to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy. "I don't think the
president should count on Democratic votes to get this passed," Rep.
Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said.
Told that Obama had compared liberal unrest with the deal with
progressive anger at the dropping of the public health insurance option,
Weiner said he also saw a similarity. "If you don't fight for
something, you can't expect to get it," he said.
House Democratic leaders huddled with Vice President Joe Biden over
the weekend to discuss the strategy required to pass such an unpopular
piece of legislation, HuffPost reported earlier
this week. Of the 51 Blue Dogs, roughly half are lame ducks, having
lost reelection or retired. Corralling those outgoing members will be
key to Obama's success, but Pomeroy said the president has a steep hill
Biden met with Senate Democrats earlier Tuesday and found hostility
to the deal, but only two members spoke out aggressively, Sen. Ben
Nelson (D-Neb.) said.
The vice president is slated to try to persuade House Democrats
Wednesday, but is unlikely to find a receptive audience given Tuesday
"Suffice it to say there was an awful lot of things expressed, pro
and con, but at the core was a deep and abiding concern by a number of
members that this was not a good deal," House Caucus Chair John Larson
(D-Conn.) said. "We're fortunate that we have tomorrow to continue to
listen to the White House."
In that time, Larson said, the House will also demand changes. "There
was an awful lot of determination for the House to work its will" in
Tuesday night's meeting, he said.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional
Progressive Caucus, said that opposition was coming "from all stripes"
within the Democratic caucus.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), a former CPC co-chair, said she was
also voting no. "It's not very popular with Democrats, I can tell you
that," she said.
If the Senate manages to pass the Obama-McConnell deal, one of Nancy
Pelosi's last acts as House Speaker of the 111th Congress will be to
gather support for the package, but she doesn't seem happy about it.
"Republicans have held the middle class hostage for provisions that
benefit only the wealthiest 3 percent, do not create jobs, and add tens
of billions of dollars to the deficit," Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said
regarding the deal. "To add insult to injury, the Republican estate tax
proposal would help only 39,000 of America's richest families, while
adding about $25 billion more to the deficit."
Leaving Tuesday night's meeting, Pelosi diplomatically acknowledged "unease" among her caucus.
Democrats are also concerned about the temporary 2-percent cut to
Social Security taxes included as part of the deal. If the tax cut
becomes permanent -- as tax cuts often do -- Social Security will be
deprived of revenue at a time when it is under heavy assault from