Washington (Politico)– When the looming battle over Bush tax cuts comes up during their meeting at the White House Thursday morning, congressional Democrats are likely to pose a simple question to President Barack Obama: What is your strategy?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have already made it clear to Obama – in a conference call Monday – that they want him to establish a coherent and tough bargaining position to deal with the GOP’s united support for an extension of all tax cuts, according to House and Senate sources familiar with the call.
But on the call the president brushed aside the suggestion that his position has wavered, sources said. And his aides continue to insist that they are deftly toeing a fine political line between caving to GOP demands that all cuts be extended indefinitely and adopting such an inflexible bargaining posture that Republicans are discouraged from reasonable compromises. (See: Top governors turn against Steele)
“We are confident that Congress will act so that taxes for middle-class families will not go up at the end of the year,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters on Wednesday.
Still, Obama’s repeated insistence that he would drive the hardest possible bargain – while signaling his openness to a compromise that includes a temporary extension for high-income taxpayers — has angered some in his party who claim he’s weakening Democrats’ efforts to force concessions from Republicans. (See: Shaken senators start prep for 2012)
“Give us the playbook – or even an inkling of what you want to do and how you want to do it,” said one congressional Democrat involved in crafting the tax-cut strategy.
Other Democrats were equally outspoken on Wednesday.
“The White House needs to stand firm and say we’re not giving tax breaks to billionaires in this country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said. “Every day we hear a little differently.”